Human trafficking and moral panic in Cambodia

Chenda Keo, Thierry Bouhours, Roderic Broadhurst, Brigitte Bouhours

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the backgrounds of traffickers in Cambodia: why they became involved in trafficking, how they operate, their earnings, and the criminal justice system's response to their activities. Our research draws from interviews with justice officials, NGOs, and detained alleged traffickers; and from a review of police and prison records. The results challenge alarmist claims about the high prevalence, profitability, or role of organized crime in human trafficking. In Cambodia, 80 percent of incarcerated traffickers are poor uneducated women who lack legitimate opportunities and whose unsophisticated illicit activities earn very little. We argue that the Cambodian government, in return for foreign aid, adopted a repressive law that defines human trafficking ineptly; in the hands of a dysfunctional justice system, the law has turned into an instrument of corruption and injustice against powerless individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-224
Number of pages23
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Human trafficking and moral panic in Cambodia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this