ASEAN Leaders Commit to Tackling Online Human Trafficking

ASEAN Leaders Commit to Tackling Online Human Trafficking
Criminal Organizations are profiting from forcing people to work on boats, in brothels and other demeaning and dangerous jobs. ( Photo : Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP )

Leaders from ASEAN member countries have vowed to tackle human trafficking and identity theft during the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia, with Laos and Cambodia called out as hotspots for such crimes.

Members of the bloc unanimously approved a pledge to promote cooperation and coordination to suppress trafficking in persons caused by the abuse of technology, by enhancing cooperation between law enforcement officers of all member countries in terms of sharing and exchanging information, gathering evidence, and investigations.

The move comes after a report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released recently that shows Laos and Cambodia are becoming new hotspots for human trafficking. Traffickers have been seen to move towards online platforms to lure victims, by promoting high-paying jobs for low-skilled work.

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, who chaired the 42nd ASEAN Summit, said that the crackdown on online crimes in this manner must be done strictly.

Last year, Indonesia’s government assisted thousands of its own citizens who were tricked by human traffickers in Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

Last year, authorities in Bokeo Province assisted more than 1,000 people who fell victim to online human trafficking. Due to its geographical location with Myanmar in the north and Thailand in the South, the province is a hotspot for human trafficking and cyber scam rings.

In the same year, the families of more than 700 Malaysians congregated in front of the Lao Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, demanding the release of their family members who had been trafficked to Laos and were being held illegally.