Fall 2009

On the Ground in Asia: Combating Human Trafficking in Cambodia

Nandita Baruah Chief of Party, The Asia Foundation, Counter-Trafficking in Persons Program, Cambodia

Human trafficking is one of the most serious human rights challenges confronting the world today. Across Asia, women are lured with false promises of jobs or marriage, and then forced into sex work or other exploitative labor situations. Controlled with threats, lies, drugs, and physical force, victims of trafficking are often held in slave-like conditions, unable to escape. The Asia Foundation’s presence across the Asia-Pacific region for more than 50 years, and its network of over 60 local counter-trafficking partners in Cambodia alone, gives us the unique ability to work both nationally and across borders to combat this egregious human rights violation. As a leader in the fight against human trafficking for more than a decade, we have supported initiatives to combat trafficking in source, transit, and destination countries throughout Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In Cambodia, the Foundation helped establish a National Task Force on Trafficking in Persons and supported the government’s High Level Working Group to Combat Trafficking in coordinating NGO and government counter-trafficking initiatives. The Foundation, in collaboration with the government’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, created the Policy on the Protection of the Rights of Victims of Human Trafficking and the Minimum Standards on the Protection of the Rights of Victims of Human Trafficking. These two documents ensure victims have access to appropriate services from the moment of rescue through rehabilitation and reintegration.

Nandita Baruah is the Chief of Party for The Asia Foundation’s Counter-Trafficking in Cambodia program. Baruah has more than 18 years of experience working on many challenges in community development, including human trafficking. She is deeply committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of trafficking victims and in her role at the Foundation she works closely with police, social workers, lawyers, and the government of Cambodia to protect victims and prosecute traffickers.

In July, Baruah helped organize a major Inter-country Consultative Dialogue conference in Phnom Penh on anti-trafficking. The conference ended with the five participating countries, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, and Cambodia, issuing a set of 14 recommendations that outline policies expected to improve cooperation and standardize the implementation of trafficking laws. The conference marked the first time that these five countries had gathered to address the problem of cross-border human trafficking.

“Working to help people who have suffered the worst forms of abuse, indignity, and trauma is never easy. But when we meet the survivors who are getting a second chance at life because of our intervention, it makes tackling these serious challenges worthwhile.”

– Nandita Baruah

Chief of Party

Counter-Trafficking in Persons Program

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