Sihanoukville (Cambodia), 3 June 2013 - Migrant smuggling is a complex issue of concern for Cambodia: Each year, according to UNODC estimates in the April 2013 Transnational Organized Crime in East Asia and the Pacific - A Threat Assessment, 55,000 Cambodian migrants are smuggled into Thailand alone. This puts them at risk of abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. Migrant smuggling also funds criminal organizations, undermines states' sovereignty and threatens the security of nations.
In response to this threat, senior representatives of the Governments of Cambodia and Canada, together with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) opened a Port Intelligence Unit (PIU) in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville.
The PIU is part of a Regional Project that aims to dismantle the smuggling of migrants by boat through establishing intelligence units in ports at Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Funded by the Government of Canada, the Sihanoukville PIU consists of 20 Cambodian officers. Drawn from the Departments of Immigration, Internal Security, Maritime Police and Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection, these officers will form strong partnerships with key sections of the Cambodia National Police and with the international law enforcement community.
Nearly 100 guests attended the inauguration ceremony, including Cambodia's Under Secretary of State Mr. Sieng Lapresse, Cambodia Police Deputy Commissioner General Mr. Sok Phal, Canadian Ambassador Mr. Philip Calvert, and representatives from the Australian Embassy.
"Inter-department enforcement units such as this PIU, equipped with proper technology and trained, knowledgeable staff, have proven to be effective in combating complex criminal networks," said Canada's Ambassador Mr. Philip Calvert at the opening ceremony. "I have no doubt that it will be a success."
Noting that the Sihanoukville office is equipped with modern intelligence operating tools and staffed with officers trained in strategic intelligence gathering and investigative skills, Cambodia Police Deputy Commissioner General Mr. Sok Phal stressed the importance of regional intelligence sharing and collaboration: "The only way to fight organized crime like this is through joint forces and coordinated actions. The PIU initiative advances this goal."
Other speakers concurred.
"This Sihanoukville PIU is part of a determined collaboration between the Governments of Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia - supported by the Government of Canada and UNODC - to develop a regional, intelligence-based response to migrant smuggling," said Mr. Olivier Lermet, UNODC Cambodia Country Manager.
Mr. Martin Reeve, PIU Project Coordinator for UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, also noted that long-term support is critical to the success of the PIUs.
"For the PIUs to be effective, the international community will have to provide long-term support and create networks of trust and intelligence sharing with local law enforcement partners," said Mr. Reeve. "PIU officers in Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia will need to learn - over time - to cooperate with their local, regional and international counterparts."
This initiative falls under UNODC's Regional Programme Framework (2009-2013). UNODC is currently developing a new integrated Regional Programme that will run from 2014-2017 and will be built on strategic consultations with regional entities, governments, and international partners. UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in addressing challenges with development, security, and governance posed by illicit drugs, crime, terrorism, and corruption.