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War on human trafficking
Publication Date : 10-02-2014
Despite efforts to eradicate women and children trafficking in the Southeast Asia, these despicable crimes still persist. The United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) listed sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic work, forced marriages, hostage taking and factory work as just some of the reasons people are illegally trafficked across borders.
Contributing factors to this illegal practice in the region include the stark socio-economic and developmental disparities, long contiguous borders, historical intra-regional migration patterns and existence of few legal migration alternatives, according to a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report.
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in its 2002 report estimated that the numbers of women and children trafficked in and out of Southeast Asia could be about 225,000 or a third out of a global figure of more than 700,000 to 2.6 million annually.
Human trafficking nets approximately US$36 billion a year, making it the second most lucrative organised crime activity in the world. UNIAP also said that the ethnic conflict in Myanmar has forced thousands of Rohingyas — a minority Muslim ethnic group from Western Myanmar — to flee to neighbouring countries.
There were indications that some Rohingyas were being moved by smugglers to a third location to be exploited as forced labour.
Looking at the situation, it looks clear that Southeast Asian countries do not have enough measures in place to seriously address the problem of trafficking and people smuggling.
New measures will have to be put in place to ensure that victims are “treated humanely and provided with such essential medical and other forms of assistance”, including prompt repatriation to their countries of origin. This is where Asean member states need to commit more resources and funds to combat human trafficking.