Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 56, Issue 5, pp 443-462

First online:

Sex trafficking in Cambodia: fabricated numbers versus empirical evidence

  • Thomas M. SteinfattAffiliated withSchool of Communication, University of Miami Email author 

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Large numbers of sex trafficking victims, on the order of 80,000–100,000, have been alleged to exist in Cambodia over the past decade. Empirical results obtained from measuring the numbers of such victims in Cambodia are contrasted with the lack of support for the widely circulated guesstimates of these numbers. Examples of similar fabrications are discussed and followed through some of their early publication history. The methodology of conducting empirical field research in less developed countries is discussed and the origin of the guesstimates is probed in detail. Both the multiple methodologies employed by and the results of a program of empirical research on trafficking numbers in Cambodia conducted from 2002 to 2008 are discussed. These are compared with the results of additional empirical studies, and with the guesstimates. The existence of empirical results creates location knowledge of victims, presenting ethical questions.