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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July, 2005, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Net to help catch human traffickers
By Kylie Morris
BBC News, Bangkok

The world wide web has become the latest frontier in the fight to combat human trafficking.

Anti-trafficking campaigners are counting on the launch of a new web portal to connect agencies trying to protect and support victims, and prosecute traffickers.

A woman cries as she is reunited with her son, one of the children rescued from a group of human traffickers in Zhengzhou, central China's Henan province 06 May 2005.
In China alone 9,000 women and children were kidnapped last year
Tipinasia.info explains trafficking laws in different Asian countries.

The multilingual site, currently in Thai, Khmer and English, lists a directory of people working in the field in different parts of Asia, and describes what it is like to be caught up in trafficking.

It highlights the case of men taken onto fishing boats in Thailand who live in appalling conditions, and receive no pay.

They live under threat of execution - anyone who complains risks being shot, or thrown overboard. They work 24 hours a day and rarely come ashore.

The website relates the story of two brothers who were sold into virtual slavery for $150 each.

While young women forced into prostitution are often the focus for anti-trafficking campaigners, the crime applies to any use of labour where people are coerced by threats or the use of force.

Net's Asian popularity

James Klein from the organisation which set up the website, the Asia Foundation, said is designed to raise awareness of trafficking and allow for information to be shared about the problem.

"Ten years ago, this wouldn't have been the answer. But now, throughout Asia, the internet is big - even in countries like Cambodia.

"Therefore, if you're really trying to communicate across borders, the easiest and the least expensive way for this to happen is over the internet," he said.

Chinese youths use computers at an internet cafe in Beijing, June 18, 2005
The site harnesses the web's network power to fight trafficking
Mr Klein said there were plans to split the site into public and private fields. In this way, fieldworkers can share sensitive information over the web, without it falling into the hands of traffickers.

For example, he said, "a raid might happen here in Bangkok, and a group of Cambodian girls found. Those names could be transferred to the appropriate people, whether they be officials or non-government agencies in Cambodia, and plans made to transport them back, and return them to the general population."

In many cases, however, it is clear that officials become complicit in trafficking.

Dr Klein said the website could help to combat that with its directory, which lists tested and trusted officials in countries which have a record of helping victims.

Finally, officials in Cambodia and Thailand are starting to recognise victims of trafficking as such, rather than as illegal migrants, says the Asia Foundation.

According to Dr Klein, "the number one issue remains changing attitudes of people, so they know what trafficking is, and apply procedures accordingly."

The hope is that Tipinasia.info might encourage more people with power to do that.

Khmer girls' trafficking ordeal
02 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Trafficker gets 50-year jail term
08 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Thais to curb human trafficking
06 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Thailand's cycle of trafficking
13 Apr 04 |  Asia-Pacific
US aims to end people trafficking
17 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Trading women in East Asia
20 Aug 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia tackles sex slave traffic
13 Oct 03 |  Asia-Pacific

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