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Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 01:04 GMT 02:04 UK


Children top conference agenda

Almost two-thirds of the world's child workers are in Asia

A conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) opens in Thailand on Wednesday with the worsening situation for many of Asia's children at the top of the agenda.

The ILO says that since the Asian financial crisis two years ago, children have increasingly become involved in dangerous and illegal activities such as prostitution and drug trafficking.

It says that almost two-thirds of the world's 250 million child workers are in Asian countries.

Owen Bennet-Jones reports on Pakistan's approach to child labour
Delegates from 13 Asian countries are attending the conference which is part of the ILO's campaign for ratification of a new convention outlawing such practices.

The ILO recently suspended links with Burma over its child labour record.

Drug trafficking

Claudia Coenjarts, south-east Asia co-ordinator of the ILO's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour, said an increase in the number of children involved in drug trafficking was particularly worrying.

Citing amphetamine trafficking in Thailand as an example, she said that adult drug traders made use of children because they could be paid less and if they were caught, the penalty would be lighter than for adults.

"If the member countries ratify the new convention of the ILO in fighting the worst forms of child labour, we can do more to prevent those children from being lured into such businesses," she said.

The convention defines the worst forms of child labour as including:

  • Slavery and the trafficking of children
  • Forcing children to take part in armed conflict
  • Using a child for prostitution or pornography
  • Using children in other illicit activities such as drug trafficking

The 13 countries taking part in this week's meeting are China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

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