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ECPAT Commends Bold Move in Asia

ECPAT Commends Bold Move in Asia to Prevent Trafficking of People

Police and governments of six Asian countries agreed last week to closely collaborate to end human trafficking from the Mekong region where criminals mostly target women and children.

“The Mekong region is a hot spot of human trafficking in the world,” Jordan Ryan, the U.N. Development Programme representative to Vietnam, told a news conference of the area formed by Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

The area's fast-growing economy had widened the gap between rich and poor, adding to crime which often targets “the most vulnerable in a society, such as children and young women, the poor and dispossessed on the margins of society,” he said.

Officials of the six nations said as they ended their meeting they would collaborate “on the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, and on supportive systems of repatriation and assistance to help trafficked victims return home.”

The Hanoi meeting, joined by donors, diplomats and international organizations, followed the signing of an agreement by the six countries in Myanmar last October in which they pledged to take action against the crime.

Nguyen Van Tinh, Vietnam's vice police minister, said the battle against human traffickers would be tough. “Our goal is noble but the road leading to it is not easy,” he told the meeting.

ECPAT NZ (a not for profit organisation set up to prevent the sexual exploitation of children) Director, Alan Bell says “It is encouraging to see this cross border co-operation to put an end to human trafficking. Anything that can be done to protect the innocent and powerless from exploitation should be strongly supported. In this case the agreement is not only to collaborate on prosecution but also to support the victims in returning to their home country”.

Between 500,000 and 4 million people are trafficked each year, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations.

The U.N. children's agency UNICEF put the number of victims in the Asia-Pacific region alone at 200,000. While human traffickers can face death in China and Vietnam, Myanmar's maximum punishment is life in jail while sentences in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand range between 20 years and 50 years, officials said.

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