Southeast Asia: Investigators plan joint responses to tackle human trafficking and migrant smuggling

Southeast Asia: Investigators plan joint responses to tackle human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Photo: UNODC17 November 2017 - Senior law enforcement officers from Southeast Asia gathered in Bangkok this week to map out responses to cases of trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants, under the stewardship of UNODC.

Organised by the UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the workshop aimed to strengthen regional law enforcement collaboration at the operational level.

Representing agencies from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries - Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam - and Bangladesh, participants planned joint action on cases ranging from the trafficking of underage victims to large-scale labour exploitation of irregular migrants.

For their part, UNODC law enforcement experts provided technical information on intelligence-led investigation methods and how to pursue arrest warrants through diplomatic channels.

Speaking at the event, Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, emphasized the importance of addressing the transnational nature of trafficking and smuggling. "Intergovernmental cooperation is important to address the needs of law enforcement and to protect victims, and it is fundamental to the approach laid out in our Regional Programme," he said, adding: "These crimes do not stop at borders and our efforts cannot either. This is precisely why we will continue to support this network of agencies and experts."

Similarly, Benjamin Smith, UNODC Regional Coordinator on Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants, said: "We are helping law enforcement agencies with intelligence-led investigation techniques and a region-wide network needed to target high-level organisers of human trafficking and migrant smuggling. This is part of a comprehensive UNODC strategy to boost the quality of convictions across the region."

Echoing that sentiment, Nathathorn Prousoontorn, Police Lieutenant General and Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, said: "Thailand is in a strategic position in Southeast Asia for human trafficking and migrant smuggling. We are working closely with the UNODC team to drive ahead with important regional law enforcement solutions."

The workshop is the culmination of an eight-month period for major results. The successes include the identification of a hidden rest-house used by migrant smugglers, the discovery of new smuggling routes, the updating of twenty-four arrest warrants, and the rescue of twelve victims of human trafficking with the support of police in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

The training is the latest in a series of workshops and mentoring sessions organised by the UNODC Regional Office to strengthen law enforcement collaboration. Following the workshop, participants will build on the achievements, bringing a number of ongoing investigations to successful conclusions before they meet again in 2018.

Further Information:

Trafficking in persons from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar to Thailand - 2017 Report

UNODC's work on human trafficking

UNODC's work on smuggling of migrants

UNODC in Southeast Asia and Pacific