More than 1,700 people have gathered in the 2nd Cambodia National Interfaith Forum on Combating Human Trafficking on 30th August 2018 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This very important and enthusiasm event has been initiated and led by the National Committee for Counter Trafficking in persons (NCCT) of the Cambodian government, the Ministry of Religion and Caritas Cambodia, with voluntary support from four main faith groups of Buddhism, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim and partner organizations who are actively working on counter trafficking in persons.

The forum was presided over by Samdech Krolahom Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, Minister of Interior and the Chairman of National Committee for Counter Trafficking in Persons (NCCT).

In an effort to promote interreligious dialogues to fight against trafficking, Caritas Cambodia and its partner organizations have been working hard over the past few years to make the day happen.

About 800 representatives of the four main religions namely Buddhism, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim came together for the second time to pray, convey messages and share its commitment towards elimination of trafficking. The forum is a good model of partnership between the national government and faith based organizations working together to fight against trafficking and ending modern slavery.

According to the statement by NCCT and Caritas Cambodia, the main purpose of the forum is threefold. Firstly, it is to prove the harmonization of different religions in the Kingdom of Cambodia to conserve Peace and Human rights in order to promote human dignity and prosperity of the nation. Secondly, it shows the importance of the faith leaders in providing education and knowledge on the impacts of human trafficking to all people so that they will participate in prevention and combating human trafficking that leads to eliminate this modern slavery. And thirdly, the event aims to promote the importance of Interfaith Forum in over the nation of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Key representatives from the government, parliamentarians, senators, as well as government officials, Buddhist monks, faith leaders and other Buddhists, Muslims, Catholic and Protestant community, the United Nations agencies, other affiliations and representatives of interfaith organizations, development partners, Cambodian Red Cross, youth group and association, and media participated the event. All have pledged to work together to fight against trafficking.

Addressing at the forum, Excellency Chou Bun Eng, the vice chairman of NCCT said the Royal government of Cambodia, represented by NCCT of the Ministry of Interior reaffirmed its commitment towards combating human trafficking and ending modern slavery by working together with different stakeholders nationally and cross-borders. She added “this event today demonstrates government’s firm commitment to address trafficking related issues”.

Human trafficking, commonly known as “modern slavery”, is a crime against humanity. It affects lives of the human beings and steals human dignity. Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Cambodian adults and children migrate to other countries within the region and increasingly to the Middle East for work; many are subjected to forced labour on fishing vessels, agriculture, construction, factories and domestic servitude—often through debt bondage—or to sex trafficking. Most of them come from impoverished families.

Human trafficking is happening everywhere and the issue is increasing complex. Mr. Kim Rattana, Executive Director of Caritas Cambodia and representative of Caritas’s Greater Mekong Sub-Region Anti-trafficking Taskforce has quoted Pope Francis “Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that’s become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society.”

"Our Mission is working towards elimination of human trafficking, the promotion of human dignity, global solidarity and empowerment of people in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region", Mr. Rattana stressed on the work of Caritas in Cambodia and the region. On behalf of the organization committee, he thanked all partners and donors for their financial, technical and spiritual support. Mr. Rattana is hopeful that the Royal government of Cambodia will continue to support this meaningful event.

Samdech Krola Hom Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior and the Chair of National Committee to Counter Trafficking in Persons (NCCT) extended his appreciation and announced his continued support for the national interfaith forum to be organized in the future. He said this event is not only an opportunity to gather various religious groups and people to pray and convey messages on combating trafficking but it shows concerted effort of collaboration and partnership to promote human dignity , build peace and prosperity in the nation-wide.

At this event, a variety of activities were presented to bring greater public awareness on trafficking issues through booth exhibition, video sharing, report presentation, prayers by different faiths, marching, blowing balloons with trafficking messages and dissemination of documents.

The forum was concluded with 9 core trafficking messages, which are firmly supported to implement by the four main faith leaders in Cambodia.

  1. Human Trafficking, Labor Exploitation, Sexual trafficking is a serious sin that must be avoided.
  2. We are all fighting for the crime of human trafficking and other crimes.
  3. Support the Government’s policy to improve the living conditions of workers, farmers and civil servants to reduce risk of migration.
  4. All of us, of all ages, are not goods for human traffickers or exploiters.
  5. We support and promote prosecution of perpetrators to provide justice to victims.
  6. Commit to expand awareness of the impact of human trafficking to our community in order to escape the suffering.
  7. Together we do good deeds to help, care for and not discriminate against victims in our community, especially women and children.
  8. All people, regardless of their religious beliefs and circumstances, are still brothers, who need the same love and care.
  9. Fully support the Royal Government's policy to promote the well-being of Cambodian religion.

Safe migration and anti-human trafficking is one of the fundamental pillars as set out in the new strategic framework (2017-2021). We are pleased to issue a summary report of what we have engaged and supported to address human trafficking and its success stories we have taken part.

Most of the trafficked persons suffer physical, emotional and sexual abuse including rape and drug related problems. Signs and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder are always noticed in these people. Caritas Cambodia considers psychosocial support for the groups is important. As part of its effort, the anti-trafficking and migration unit and the Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health program of Caritas Cambodia works closely to provide a psychosocial-support, care and counseling for trafficked persons/returnees, and vulnerable women in order to give them hope for a new life. To understand more about this in detail Caritas Cambodia has organized a workshop on psychosocial care for migrants and trafficked persons on Friday the 24th November, 2017 facilitated by Dr. Jone Schanche Olsen from Norway. Dr. Olsen was in Cambodia from 18th to 25th November 2017 and had been to the Friendly Vocational Training Center at Sneung, Battambang province prior to the workshop. Caritas Cambodia communication officer, Ms. Somealea Ngay interviewed Dr. Jone Schanche Olsen about his experience in helping persons in difficult circumstances, such as forced migration and trafficking. Excerpts as below:

Somealea Ngay: Can you tell us something about yourself and work?
Dr. Jone Schanche Olsen: I am a psychiatrist. I have been working in the filed of transcultural psychiatry for the past 28 years in many countries including Norway, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, and Denmark. In Cambodia, from 1999-2000, I served as a full time Program Coordinator & Senior Psychiatrist in Mental Health Development Program (CMHDP) of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Phnom Penh. The program built the capacity of mental health professionals.
I am currently the head of Transcultural Center of Stavanger University Hospital, a small out-patient clinic in Norway. The area of my clinical work is on education, research and to develop new methods on the field, supervision and clinical work. Our target groups are the traumatized refugees and asylum seekers from Africa, Middle East and elsewhere.

Somealea Ngay: What are the challenges faced by the trafficked/ migrant returnees how and why psychosocial-support is crucial for them in the process of reintegration?
Dr. Jone Schanche Olsen: I think “Stima” remains one of the main challenge faced by the trafficked persons/migrant returnees, especially in the reintegration process. Experiences show that when they returned home, they feel being looked down and not well-respected socially, particularly when their trafficking story is known by their community. Another challenge is social aspect, connected to the behavior and attitudes of people around. There is no doubt that their history affects their reputation. The victims are often subjected to mix feelings of anxiety, depression, night mare, and trauma which are harmful to their psychological development. We need to address this issue, realizing that we cannot make it disappeared, but to make people understand what has been happening to them and to cope with it. To them, there is a general need to know somebody is there to support them, feel they are not alone but living in a safe place. Sometimes, they feel disconnected from their family and community. In terms of assistance needs, it is crucial to bring them into group therapy which is to make them more socially connected, to build trust, to normalize symptoms and bring them to meditation.

Somealea Ngay: What are the major steps/phases of intervention in offering psychosocial-support to augment recovery and reintegration process?
Dr. Jone Schanche Olsen: There may be more than one ways. But these are the basic steps of intervention. The first is “safety”, -simply means the trafficked persons/returnees should have a safe place to stay and not to be threatened and furthermore to access to food. This is vital for them after their long period without safety and security in life. Moreover, for those who have children, it is important that their children are cared for. Secondly, it is “group intervention and mutual support”. The third one is to identify who are in need of more specific treatment of any kind.

Somealea Ngay: Can you share any best practices of psychosocial-support to the trafficked persons in the process of recovery and reintegration?
Dr. Jone Schanche Olsen: I am interested all kinds of group intervention which is ideal and best kind of intervention because in a group, people do not need to identify as individual with mental health case but to share each other of their difficulty and history. People feel being in safe environment to talk and share the story. Beyond that, the group intervention brings them to discuss on problem solving and share of life-supporting strategies when they are returned to their community.

Somealea Ngay: What are the required skill and expertise needed for a psychologist to support the trafficked persons in the recovery and reintegration process?
Dr. Jone Schanche Olsen: I think ‘group therapy training’ is needed for the professionals to enable them to respond effectively to the psychosocial needs of the vulnerable groups. Group therapy is beneficial because it creates a supportive environment, assist each other both inside and outside group setting and furthermore, it helps improve their psychosocial functions and lastly it is less time-consuming. To equip psychologists with specialized training on group therapy is important and a needed skill for them to lead effective group therapy session with the trafficked persons/returnees and vulnerable groups.

Somealea Ngay: You have worked in the past in Cambodia; based on your past experience and the current situation of trafficked-survivors can you share your valuable thoughts on mental health support that needs to be developed.
Dr. Jone Schanche Olsen: I see a lot of efforts being made by the government and non-governmental organizations to promote mental health through a varied activities and programs. I think undertaking preventive step and promotion in mental health fit well in the context of Cambodia because it increases the awareness and level of understanding of the people; and the ways to cope with the problems.

The International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking is presented on Wednesday, 8th February, 2017. Mr. Kim Rattana, Executive Director of Caritas Cambodia briefed the objective of the day. He said “the international day is to create greater awareness among the general public and to reflect on the current situation of human trafficking; particularly women and children. Another goal is to create public attention and social action to fight against human trafficking which is still a big issue in Cambodian society as well as in the regional and global level”. During the day, Caritas conducted staff gathering to join for prayer and collaborated with the National interreligious committee to celebrate the day.

In the morning, all staff of Caritas national office is joining together in prayer to celebrate the global act to fight against human. The morning program at the office included: 1/ presentation of short video featuring a true story of a Cambodian women who was trafficked to China, 2/ prayer led by Fr. Hang Ly from the Apostolic Church of Phnom Penh and 3/participatory campaign by stamping hand on the white fabric to dedicate commitment on fighting against human trafficking in all forms.

The second program in the evening was the interreligious prayer in Buddhism, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim way. The attendees are representatives from the four religions, came together to celebrate the prayer for the victims of human trafficking; especially women and children. The International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking is also celebrated in different dioceses, parishes and Caritas’s provincial programs and project.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, February, 8 is the feats day St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once, she was freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared as Saint in 2000. On 8th February, Catholics all over the world are encouraged to host or attend prayer services to create greater awareness about this phenomenon. Through prayer , we not only reflect on the experiences of those that have suffered through this affront to human dignity, but also comfort, strengthen and help empower survivors.

8 February is the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. Representatives from the local Catholic Church, youth group and Caritas staff from the national office and programs came together to observe the International Day of Prayer. This important event was led by Bishop Enrique Figaredo (Kike), Chairman of Caritas Cambodia and Fr. Hang Ly from the Apostolic Church of Phnom Penh.

As an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking, Catholics all over the world are encouraged to host or attend prayer services to create greater awareness about this phenomenon. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, February, 8 is the feats day St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once, she was freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared as Saint in 2000.

Why the day is important? To lead us into the action to fight against trafficking, Pope Francis has stated “Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity.” “It’s a disgrace” that people are treated “as objects, deceived, raped, often sold many times for different purposes and, in the end, killed or, in any case, physically and mentally damaged, ending up thrown away and abandoned,”(Source: Catholic news Services Dec 12, 2013)

At the beginning of the celebration, Bishop Kike highlighted many issues related to human trafficking and shared a case of human trafficking where two sons were sold to Thailand by their parents. All participants attending the day were listening to the sad story and praying for the sake of the two children as well as to all victims and survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia and different countries around the world. Their stories keep our eyes opening to fight against human trafficking worldwide.

Caritas Cambodia assists the poor solely on the basis of need, and not creed. We strive to promote human dignity, alleviate suffering and foster charity, justice, and peace. Caritas cares for people who are suffering from human trafficking. Mr. Kim Rattana, Executive Director of Caritas Cambodia said the day is significant as we came to pray and to take a joint action to support them. We respect all human being regardless their race, nationality, religion and social status.

“More importantly, we gather today to share our commitment with Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Asia and all our partners to raise greater awareness on human trafficking”, Mr. Kim Rattana stated. He invited all participants, Caritas Cambodia family to host and attend the celebration for a whole month, starting our prayer from individual family and community to show our ongoing effort to combat human trafficking
The day was ended with the activity by stamping hand on the white fabric to dedicate our commitment on fighting against human trafficking in all forms and concluded with a blessing given by Bishop Kike and Father Ly.

“Human trafficking is important for every one of us to know. We all should be keeping attention to the problem as it arises and affect our lives and communities ”, Fr. Chatsirey, the parish priest of Phsar Touch in Phnom Penh addressed at his opening remark during the cross-border awareness raising session on safe migration and human trafficking. A cross-border event being held in a church in Cambodia was jointly organized by the anti-human trafficking and migration desk of Caritas Cambodia and Caritas Vietnam on the morning of Sunday, 26th November 2017.

As of their cross-border planning on trafficking, the session was made to build awareness by providing information focused on the prevention of unsafe migration and human trafficking to vulnerable group, so that they can make informed decision to migrate. The target groups are the youth and parents from the Vietnamese family’s background living in Cambodia.

Approximately, 80 people participated in the session. Happily, they expressed delight and emphasized the importance of the event. One participant said the session was useful for her and she learnt a lot from the session, especially on key points she has never thought about and discussed before. “For me, it is not new topic but it is for the first time, I participate the session at the church”, she added. Many participants stressed that they will share the knowledge from the session to their relatives and friends.

The sessions were led by Sr. Jacinta, from Caritas Vietnam and Ms. Sopheak Tek, Caritas Cambodia with the focus on pre-departure orientation, the prevention measures, and the impact of trafficking and unsafe migration. Besides explaining and giving information, the key message focuses on highlighting the key role of every individual to understand, to engage, to prevent and combat human trafficking.

In overall, it was an informative session with questions and answers. The event was concluded with a ‘thankful note’ to the parish priests, sisters and representative from the parish council and as to all participants for their wonderful support and active participation to make the session possible. To close the session, flyers on trafficking were handed to participants and each of them blew up an orange balloon and presented the sign of “Stop Human Trafficking” and “Stop Violence”.

The awareness raising session is part of planning activities of Caritas’s Greater Mekong Sub- Region Taskforce on Trafficking, with the goal to build awareness on the danger and impact of trafficking and migration, targeting the potential migrants and populations with low level of education including women and children and vulnerable groups. Caritas Vietnam and Caritas Cambodia emphasized its shared commitment to continue building education awareness, believing this will benefit to the reduced of trafficking and increased safe migration.

Four Cambodian crews of FV Naham 3 who were held hostage by Somali pirates for four years and a half were released on 22nd October 2016 and arrived home on the Sunday night, 30th October 2016. Caritas Cambodia together with the General Secretariat of National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) has worked to provide support services to the seafarers.  

Thanks the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) for tremendous support. With the support from ISWAN, Caritas Cambodia is able to prepare a home welcoming package for the survivors. Just a day of their arrival, the four survivors and the families were offered appropriate and warm care and support including medical check-up, medicines, psychosocial counseling, local transportation, accommodation and meals. These assistances are facilitated by Caritas Cambodia in collaboration with the government. The result from psychosocial counseling carried out by Caritas’s professional and experienced counseling team- Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH) program has shown all of them got some intrusive memories, but they are confident to reintegrate into their home, family and community. CCAMH is opened to provide further support and counseling both the survivors and their families when needed. Nevertheless, no major diseases have been found in the health check-up.  

On the next day, Caritas and NCCT had prepared a formal welcoming meeting at Caritas office in Phnom Penh. The meeting did not only allow an opportunity for all of them to tell their story lives under hostage for nearly five years in Somalia but also to pay their gratitude to the government, NCCT, ISWAN, Caritas Cambodia and other supporters. The meeting had attracted huge media attention. Presided over the meeting by Her Excellency Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior and the chair of General Secretariat of National Committee for Counter Trafficking extended thanks to ISWAN, Caritas and all partners for their support.

Apinya Tajit, representative from ISWAN expressed her delight to see the real smiles of the families who have lived separately from each other for many years. She thanked the government of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social, Veteran and Rehabilitation, NGO partner organizations for such a wonderful arrangement and support.
FV Naham 3 was hijacked by Somali pirates in March 2012 and 29 member crews were captured. Among them, there are four Cambodian; two are from Kampong Cham, one from Kampong Chhnang and one from Kratie province. All of them come from poor families. All expressed their hardship and suffer during captivity. "It is great to be going home and meet the family", said one of the survivors.  Another survivor said “I will not go anywhere because I do not want to risk my life again. I am going to stay with family and do farming”.  

Caritas Cambodia will continue to assist and support the survivors and families. Ms. Tek Sopheak, Migration and Anti-trafficking Manager said “Caritas is committed to provide further support to the survivors and families and is planning reintegration plan for them so that they can be again reintegrate into their community. Caritas will not leave the families alone but we are preparing a 6-month plan after family reunion at their home provinces. “One of the most important thing we plan further support in their livelihood. We want to see all of them live a happy life”, emphasized Ms. Tek Sopheak.

From 03rd -6TH November 2016, Caritas will accompany the families back home, said Sopheak. Local authority, families and neighbors who are awaiting the arrival of the survivors had prepared Buddha’s blessing, a traditional Cambodian practice to bring luck, wishes, happiness and success, according to Sopheak.

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