Human trafficking: Asia gets UN, US support to combat scourge


(eTN) – Asian nations are showing more determination in a UN-sponsored impetus to wipe out human trafficking, especially in Southeast Asia. The Mekong Delta states comprising of Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam met with China, which is leading the initiative, to further discuss its historic signing of the Meeting of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT).

“The region has been regarded globally as a hotspot for human trafficking,” China said.

First held in October 2007 to lay the groundwork for a network of cooperation to stop trafficking, and prosecution of offenders, the meeting reviewed the implementation of the MOU signed at the first meeting and passed the second plan of action (2008-2010).

“Combating human trafficking effectively is a difficult task faced by the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS),” said Subinay Nandy, China Country Director of the UN Development Program, in addition to promising support and technical expertise from the UN, as well as its partners from NGO and civil society. “It calls for joint efforts from all countries.”

Due to the proximity of borders in the Mekong Delta region, there has been a high incidence of human trafficking among the countries.

Over the past decade, tens of thousand of women and children from the GMS region have been trafficked abroad for prostitution, under the guise of marriage, child adoption, forced labor and slavery.

Added Zhang Zinfeng, Chinese vice minister for Public Security, “We want to save more lives in the region. It’s only the first step by the six governments to map out a road map for anti-trafficking.”

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) will soon release its plan, which includes preventive measures, a crackdown policies, aid to victims, repatriation and rehabilitation, regional and international cooperation.

The plan will cover the Chinese government’s anti-human trade of women and children. “We uncovered 2,500 cases of human trafficking in 2006 alone,” according to MPS.

Between 2005-2007, Vietnamese police detected 900 trafficking cases involving 2,200 victims, according to its state information service. “Thousands of Vietnamese women are believed to be trafficked every year, especially to neighboring China and Cambodia. Many have been tricked by promises of jobs, but end up working as prostitutes, or forced into marriage,” the Chinese government said.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates as high as 1 million children are bought and sold every year, becoming victims of pedophiles or forced into the labor market.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the United States government recently approved a new grant amounting to US$300,000 to combat human trafficking, in support of efforts undertaken by the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF).

“The funds will be used to support ongoing operations at the ports in Batangas, Davao, Manila and Sorsogon, including the newly opened halfway house in Zamboanga City,” said US Ambassador Kristie Kenney.

In 2006, the US Embassy said its development assistance totaled more than $1 million.

Apart from funding activities, the US also trains law enforcement officials on evidence-gathering techniques, and work with prosecutors on creating models when handling human trafficking cases.

“No government can singly solve the trans-national trafficking problems except to cooperate through agreed issues,” Zhang reminded the delegates. “The only way to fight the crime is through multi-ministerial cooperation.”