SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: One hour away from the village of Mkak, tourists sip iced lattes by day and plan their visits to the ancient temples at nearby Angkor Wat, the cradle of Khmer civilization. By night the bars boom, loved-up backpackers party till dawn, and the tuk-tuk drivers and stall owners hussle for a buck or two.
Nothing much happens in Mkak ("plum" in Khmer). It's a sweaty ramshackle village of hand-to-mouth rice farmers in Chi Kraeng commune. The tarmac road gives up long before it reaches Mkak. The only buzz comes from flies, mosquitoes, and the occasional motorbike.
Even with the support of local authorities, the temple, IOM and other organizations, the war on people smuggling is, tragically, being lost. Cambodia's wealth, from tourism, textiles and timber, is poorly distributed. The economy is growing at a rate which in previous years would have been called Asian Tiger levels, yet widespread corruption means the vast majority of Cambodia's population is only scraping by.
Below, the Deputy District Governor of Chi Kraeng commune explains how the local authorities try to keep track of those who have returned from exploitation at sea. Their data shows that the former slaves are either migrating to other provinces, or back to sea, back to the trawlers where their tattoos, at least, will be accepted.
Venerable Tep, Khoeurn, an important regional religious leader, has been personally touched by the tragedy of slave labour. Watch the video below
"My nephew has just died in Thailand. He worked on a fishing boat. Right now, funeral music is being played and heard over a loudspeaker at his home, my home village. Yesterday afternoon I went briefly to his funeral and then I came to participate in this [IOM Training] because I wanted to know all the issues and I wanted to bring this information to the people."