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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Thais to curb human trafficking

By Kylie Morris
BBC correspondent in Bangkok

A policeman looks at a poster at a trafficking exhibition, Thailand
Cooperation is needed across the entire Mekong region, agencies say
By virtue of geography alone, Thailand is a crossroads for traffickers and their human capital.

The country was recently put on a watch-list by the US, which says Bangkok has not proved it is doing enough to help victims of trafficking.

Now the country is holding a meeting to discuss human trafficking, to show that it is serious about the problem.

The prime minister has announced a $10m (5.4m) fund to support those in need of help.

Men, women and children are trafficked from Burma, Laos, Cambodia and China, to work in forced or bonded labour and prostitution, either in Thailand itself or in a third country.

Bonded labour

The fact that Thailand is wealthier than most of its neighbours also boosts its appeal as a final destination.

Worldwide, as many as a million people are thought to be forced into jobs as factory workers, domestic help and prostitutes.

There was also recognition at the Bangkok meeting that child beggars on the streets of the capital are often indentured to raise funds without any other options.

One official here compared the scale of the problem to the challenges posed by drug addiction in the kingdom.

Tightening the noose

Delegates also heard that the revenues from trafficking surpassed those of the trade in illegal arms in the region.

While there is agreement on the size of the problem, there is less clarity on the best policy to follow.

The new funds are aimed at supporting rehabilitation of those who have suffered at the hands of traffickers.

But international agencies have recognised that only close co-operation between the various countries in the Mekong region will tighten the noose on the traffickers.

A pact is some way off and there is doubt as to whether any cross-border framework could be legally binding.

The Thai government, though, has at least expressed its commitment after it was severely criticised over its preparations for last year's Apec summit, when it deported hundreds of Cambodians without providing them with any protection.

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19 Feb 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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