Although human trafficking is recognized as modern-day slavery, many victims of the scourge in the Greater Mekong Sub-region of South-East Asia are not given adequate help for reintegration into their communities, according to a United Nations-backed report released today.
“Any support offered to victims of trafficking needs to be given in a way that restores a sense of control for the victims over their own lives,” the regional project manager for the UN Inter-agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), said of the study, commissioned by the Governments of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) – Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
“When support is provided in a way that does not respect the will of the victims, or is even provided against their will, this may result in further trauma and a continuation of their victimization.”
She called the report “an important first step in understanding the reintegration experiences of trafficking victims,” which will help inform service providers and policymakers on how to improve assistance “to ensure that trafficking victims in the region can overcome their experiences and go on to lead happy, healthy and productive lives.”
While estimates of the number of trafficked persons vary considerably, it is widely agreed that those reached and assisted is a small fraction of the total. The Mekong region compared to many other parts of the world, contains very diverse patterns of human trafficking – internal and cross-border; highly organized or small-scale; sex and labour, through both formal and informal recruitment mechanisms.
Examples range from men, women, children and families trafficked into Thailand from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia for forced prostitution, domestic servitude, or forced labour in sweatshops, fishing boats, construction sites, plantations, or farms Vietnamese girls and young women trafficked for sexual exploitation and virginity selling in Cambodia.