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Progress reviewed in fight against human trafficking

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Article from Vientiane Times
Author: Meuangkham Noradeth
Published: 20/10/2009
Newspaper section: International Cooperation

Officials from the Ministry of Justice, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and partner organisations met in Vientiane yesterday to discuss ways to combat human trafficking.

The Lao government is deeply concerned about the issue of trans-national organised crime, including human trafficking, said Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr Ket Kiettisack, during the Tripartite Meeting - R76: Strengthening of the Legal and Law Enforcement Institutions to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking.

The main purpose of the meeting was to present and discuss what has been done and progress to date in the project, and how UNODC can help to prevent and combat not only human trafficking, but also other forms of illicit trafficking in Laos in the years to come.

Mr Ket said human trafficking, illicit drug trafficking, environmental crimes, money trafficking, corruption, terrorism and other serious crimes of a trans-national or organised nature represent a threat to both national and human security.

The ministry is fully committed to preventing and fighting these crimes. Since October 2006 the ministry has worked alongside UNODC to strengthen the capacity of criminal justice institutions, including the judiciary and government law enforcement bodies, to prevent and combat human trafficking and related forms of organised crime in Laos through the R76 project, Mr Ket said.

He said this commitment and work is directly underpinned by Lao laws, as well as the Trafficking in Persons Protocol under the Trans-national Organised Crime Convention, which Laos acceded to in 2003.

In Laos awareness raising and capacity-building are of particular importance in addressing human trafficking, Mr Ket added.

With a strong focus on building the capacity of legal and law enforcement institutions, the project has successfully implemented key interventions to bridge the gap. A significant number of trainings and workshops have taken place in Vientiane and at the provincial level.

Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad, said UNODC representative, Mr Leik Boonwaat.

He said every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.

"Human trafficking is an issue of serious concern in Laos . It is estimated that between 200,000 and 450,000 people are trafficked annually within the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Laos is also affected," Mr Boonwaat said.

He said it is believed that about 90 percent of trafficking from Laos occurs to Thailand where the majority of victims are girls aged between 12 and 18. It has been estimated that about 35 percent end up in prostitution, 32 percent in forced labour, 17 percent in factories and 4 percent on fishing boats.

Through the R76 project initiated in September 2006, UNODC in partnership with the ministry has been strengthening a core training group of Lao criminal justice officials to strengthen the capacity of legal and law enforcement institutions to prevent, investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking.