Reality Tour of Human Trafficking in Cambodia: Yes, This Actually Exists

Reality Tour of Human Trafficking in Cambodia

Yes, you too can shell out a cool $2000 to go on a “reality tour” of Cambodia’s grasping poor. Since you’re really enlightened and stuff, your money will allow you to join a “delegation” instead of a tour group, which sounds much better on those tricky grad school application essays.

The trip’s intinerary includes stops at majority Christian-run trafficking NGOs. I won’t outright knock the Christians, but my suspicions are a mite raised.

One of the ending “highlights” of the trip is a visit to the Stung Meanchey dump, where young children eke out a living by picking through trash.

The dump has become a popular destination for “tourists who really care,” allowing them to hop out of their nice AC van, take photos and hand out goodies to trash-picker goods – inadvertently making sending kids out to the dump that much more of an inviting opportunity for poor Cambodian families.

These visits are usually reviled by local NGO workers—who actually know what they are talking about, and know how the communities they serve work.

All that human trafficking can really get you down, so a trip to Angkor Wat and “three star” accomodations are included. The length of this revolutionary delegation’s trip through Cambodia? Less than two weeks. Yeah, that’ll affect some lasting change.

Or at least give participants a lot of great chances to take adorable photos of them manhandling supposedly sex-trafficked orphans.

These kind of trips are exactly what hundreds of my college student peers merrily jetted off to every summer or every lengthy break. These kids almost always came back with lots of sweet stories for their friends, and little to no deep understanding of the issues they claimed to be authorities on.

But the “Well, I MET SEX TRAFFICKED CHILDREN (insert cause here, starving Somalis, leprous Indians, homosexual Bangladeshis, what have you) AND SAW THEM WITH MY OWN EYES” defense is an awesome college-debate trump card.

Sex trafficking is a terrible, real thing. Sending “delegations” of the wealthy to poke and prod the victims is not the way to fix the problem.

I don’t really care how compelling the stories the “delegates” tell their buddies at grad school parties about their “life changing experience” are, either. Find a decent charity or aid organization – good luck with that, but that’s another blog post – and stick your $2000 there.

Alternately, come visit Cambodia as a normal, non-sanctimonious tourist. If you like it, maybe find a job. And then stay. If you’re lucky, smart, and willing to learn some humility, you might just do some good.

Two week jaunts? No way.


The Conceit of Nick Kristof – Rescuing Sex Slaves as Saintliness – The Naked Anthropologist

Laura Augustin neatly encapsulates why I find Kristof so irritating.