The continued presence of Cambodia on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) money laundering “grey list” and its recent addition to a Human Trafficking blacklist is harming the country’s international reputation and driving away investors, according to Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.
In comments reported by The Khmer Times overnight, the Deputy PM admitted there was no denying such assessments of Cambodia’s ratings in this regard and insisted more must be done to address the issues.
“There are two problems of ours today for the image of [Cambodia],” he said. “Not supporting the assessment, but we also cannot deny.”
Human Trafficking has become headline news across the region in recent months with multiple reports of individuals being tricked into accepting jobs in Cambodia only to be held against their will. Many have been linked to some of the dozens of casinos located in places like Sihanoukville and in border casinos in Poipet and Bavet, among others.
“Two weeks ago, Cambodian authorities arrested more than 30 Chinese nationals traveling by boat from China via Vietnam to Kampong Som, Sihanoukville, without any documents,” Sar said, calling for more support from multiple government ministries in addressing the issue.
As reported by Inside Asian Gaming, a group of around 40 foreign casino workers broke through a fence of the Golden Phoenix Entertainment Casino in Koh Thom last month and swam across the river to Vietnam. They later claimed to be fleeing the casino due to slave labor conditions.
Authorities in both Macau and Hong Kong were also moved last month to issue a public warning after uncovering cases of residents being lured to Southeast Asia on the promise of high-paying casino jobs that were suspected to be fraudulent instead.
The Deputy PM’s comments come after the FATF maintained Cambodia’s position on the “grey list” in March, while the US added Cambodia, Vietnam and Brunei to its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report to the list of Tier 3 nations – potentially opening them up to various sanctions and penalties.