An Interview with Chan Saron

As we approach our 10 year anniversary as an organisation working towards ending human trafficking, we want to recognise the teams and individuals who have made us who we are today. This week, we focus on Chan Saron, Justice and Client Care Program Manager.

Case Support coordinates referrals and provides practical support for clients.

Case Support coordinates referrals and provides practical support for clients.

Saron has worked for Chab Dai since 2008, having previously worked as a pastor in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. Initially a trainer in Chab Dai's Urban Prevention Project, Saron saw the birth of the Case Support Project, which began in 2011 as a first response to anyone who needs to report a case of trafficking or abuse. From finding a shelter to briefing families on court procedures and following-up with community leaders, Case Support coordinates referrals and provides practical support for clients.

“Before when we had the case team, we would refer to another organisation. However, as we received [approx] 100 cases a year, we found the organisations already had many cases to handle. So when we started Case Support in 2011, we divided into two teams –  social work and the prosecution follow-up teams. I am responsible for both teams; for managing all the cases.”

Cross-border trafficking cases

Case Support works a lot with local communities here in Cambodia, but 2014 saw the team continue to strengthen cross-border relations with many countries, including travelling to China in response to increasing numbers of forced marriage cases involving Cambodian women. Saron spoke of the unique challenges here:

“When we're dealing with overseas cases, there are often too few dedicated staff. What we need is someone working directly with the survivors. There is a gap for a coordinating organization between the survivors, the local Chinese authority, Cambodian embassy in China and government institutions and NGOs in Cambodia.”

Though these challenges are ongoing, there have been some more positive outcomes from these cases:

“This year, we had a complaint from a woman who said that her daughter was sold by a broker to China. The broker promised that her daughter would go to Singapore to work, but when the mother allowed her daughter to go with [him], he sold her to China for forced marriage.

"Meanwhile, the mother travelled from their home town to Phnom Penh, and sat near to another two young girls, asking them: 'Where are you going?'  So [the girl said] 'to work in Singapore' and when she asked the girl how, the two girls said 'I am going with this man who will get me a job'.

“The story was similar to her daughter’s, so she reported this to Chab Dai and when I reported this to the police, we assisted in the rescue of two girls and the arrest of the broker in Phnom Penh. After, the woman went back and related the story to the community.”

To stop it happening again? I ask Saron. “Yes, to stop it happening again.”

Therein lies the key to what Chab Dai is all about – asking the question how can human trafficking be prevented, as much as thinking about aftercare.

How has Chab Dai made a difference?

So how does Saron think Chab Dai has made an impact on the way human trafficking is handled in Cambodia in the last decade?

“We have already worked with the [Ministry of Interior] Department of Human Trafficking for three years - at first, [it was] hard. I think that through collaboration, this has now changed.

“Before, Cambodian police didn't have much training about this issue, only police at the top level. But the people who work directly with the case are the local police. So when we work with them, we always try to educate them. We also explain to them that you cannot handle a criminal case without filing a complaint to the court.

“[Chab Dai] also attends meetings at national level so our work with UNIAP [United Nations Inter-agency Project on Human Trafficking] is very important. Cambodia is a member of a committee of countries along the Mekong River, like China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, (COMMIT), so we're working together to combat human trafficking. We work to advocate for policy change, so if we have something that is not good, we will [raise] our concerns. They have the power to change the policy, and if we don't have the right policy, how can we protect the child?”

Finally, I ask, what makes Saron carry on working in this challenging field?

“I saw many Cambodian people, especially the poor, who had been abused by another person or had suffered injustice in Cambodian society. So I thought I should do something for the people, if I have the ability to.

"When I worked in the community as a pastor, the people around me were always coming to me, but I did not know how to help them - I asked them to file a complaint to police, but when they went to the police, they didn't get any help.

"So it's this kind of problem that pushes me to work in Chab Dai; because Chab Dai can complete my vision. Finally, Cambodian society can have justice. Not all, but some parts can see justice.”