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Mekong nations form panels to plot

The Nation (30 November 1995)
Mekong nations form panels to plot action 

IN A fresh effort to contain widespread trafficking in women, children
and illegal immigrants, policy and law makers from six countries in the
Mekong sub-region have agreed to set up national committees to address
the problem. 

Representatives from Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam
also pledged to meet again by the year 2000 and expressed hope there
would be gains by then in the war against people who traffic in human

The regional conference agreed on Friday the national committees would be
authorised to formulate plans of action and programmes to prevent and
suppress human trafficking and to seek ways to protect the victims from
further abuse, Saisuree Chutikul, adviser to the National Commission for
Women's Affairs, said. 

Legislation should also be enacted to differentiate between trafficking
in women and children and organised illegal immigration, added law
lecturer Prof Vitit Muntabhorn of Chulalongkorn University. 

This should include provisions friendly to women and child victims, to
ensure that they were properly treated, and should also cover
slavery-like situations and forced labour. 

People should be considered victims of trafficking if they were
transported by others who used or threaten to use violence, abused by
people in authority or positions of dominance, or subjected to deception
or other forms of coercion for the purpose of exploiting them sexually or
economically for the profit or advantage of others, Vitit said. 

This definition was agreed to by conference representatives to enable
authorities to clearly define and identify victims. 

Vitit said that to ensure proper treatment of people being deported to
their country of origin, bilateral treaties formalising the repatriation
process would be drafted, as a mechanism through which the ''central
authority'' could work. 

''Just sending the deportees to the border is not enough, they must be
adequately assisted and be able to integrate back into their
communities,'' he said. 

U Than Po, director general of Burma's Department of Social Welfare, said
his government strictly enforced immigration laws to prevent the
trafficking of women and child by strictly screening young women under 25
years who cross the borders. 

These women must possess all required documents and must travel in a
group and be accompanied by a guardian. They must also report to
authorities before leaving Burma and upon their return, he said. 

By Mukdawan Sakboon