Human trafficking continues to flourish within the region, requiring a joint effort by the Mekong countries to actively stamp out the trade and penalise those responsible.
Human trafficking is harmful to socio-economic development and social order in the region and could worsen when the ASEAN Economic Community is fully integrated.
Speaking at the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) meeting in Vientiane yesterday, Minister of Public Security, Major General Somkeo Silavong stressed that human trafficking was destructive and should be tackled more vigorously.
Human trafficking is one of the most harmful crimes and is transnational. It involves the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them, he said.
Action is being taken to address the root causes of human trafficking and support the recovery and reintegration of victims. Joining together to address this issue is the responsibility of everybody in society, he added.
He said human trafficking had become a highly profitable business and now ranked third behind the arms trade and drug trafficking.
The victims of trafficking are mostly young women, and girls and boys under the age of 18.
Maj. Gen Somkeo said the linking of regional and international economies, the rapid development of IT, easy transportation, free movement of people and other issues had made it easier for traffickers to carry out their business.
Laos and the other Mekong countries have reaffirmed their commitment to work with neighbouring countries to combat human trafficking more effectively.
In a bid to curb human trafficking, the six lower Mekong countries – Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – signed a Memorandum of Understanding on COMMIT in 2004.
Some experts and researchers said most human trafficking victims illegally entered neighbouring countries to seek work because they came from poor areas and needed money to support their families.
Other reasons for migration to other provinces or countries are limited job opportunities in Laos and a lack of employers in the form of factories and companies.
Experts said the sectors concerned needed to persuade families to provide their children with information about human trafficking, so they were aware of the risks.
Raising awareness among children and young people about the potential benefits and dangers of migration is very important, and requires the government and the authorities concerned to work together, they said.
Statistics for 2012 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime show that about 27 million people in 127 countries around the world, including Laos, fall victim to human trafficking every year, with 70-80 percent being women and children.
Source: Vientiane Times