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Mekong Nations Strengthen Partnership to Combat Human Trafficking

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Laos has reaffirmed its commitment to work with its neighbouring countries Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to combat human trafficking across the Mekong region.

The Mekong countries will enhance their joint efforts to track down and punish those who carry out this scurrilous trade and help the victims to return home.

This was the message delivered by the Head of the Secretariat of the National Steering Committee on Human Trafficking, Colonel Dr Phengsavanh Thiphavongxay, when addressing the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT), taking place in Vientiane from November 23-24.

Human trafficking is the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them, Col. Dr Phengsavanh said.

The smuggling of migrants involves the procurement for financial or other material benefit of the illegal entry of a person into a State of which that person is not a national or resident.

Col. Dr Phengsavanh said that virtually every country in the world is affected by these crimes. The challenge for all countries, rich and poor, is to target the criminals who exploit desperate people and to protect and assist victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants, many of whom endure unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life.

Col. Dr Phengsavanh said the member countries have focused on the implementation of the programme, based on the capacity and real situation of each country, in cooperation with international organisations and civil society. Each country has met with varying degrees of success.

This week’s meeting is a follow-up to the last one held on February 18-19 in Bangkok to review and further develop an action plan to implement Phase 4 of the regional programme.

During this meeting we will get an update on the progress of Phase 4, under which each country has conducted activities with a focus on outstanding events, he said.

Col. Dr Phengsavanh noted that participants would discuss the sustainability of the programme, work to identify victims and referral mechanisms, the involvement of young people and social organisations, and progamme priorities for 2017.

He called on participants to take charge and be decisive, to discuss matters frankly and fully, and to be creative and effective, so that the meeting could achieve its targets.

Some experts and researchers said they were afraid that human trafficking would get worse when the ASEAN Economic Community is fully integrated, referring to the regional bloc’s aspirations to create a single market with a free flow of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labour by 2020.

Between 2006 and 2015, thousands of victims of trafficking were officially repatriated from neighbouring countries. They were mostly women, and girls and boys under the age of 18.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the UN-ACT Regional Office, the COMMIT Task Force and other invited guests from the Mekong region.

Source: Vientiane Times