Australia Tips in with Bt250m to Help with People Trafficking in ASEAN

Trafficking in humans brings thousands of people against their will from Southeast Asia to Australia each year to serve as sex workers or virtual slaves. To help prevent such gross human rights abuses at the source, Australia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Thailand and other countries in the region and promised to devote 8.5 million Australian dollars to an anti-trafficking project. The project will establish special anti-trafficking units within national police agencies and promote greater cooperation among immigration agencies. – YaleGlobal

Australia Tips in with Bt250m to Help with People Trafficking in ASEAN

Jim Pollard
Thursday, December 18, 2003

Thai and Australian government officials yesterday discussed new moves to counter the trafficking of "sex slaves" and other people Down Under and within the region.

Thailand is one of four Asean nations Australia will help to fight human trafficking, along with Burma, Laos and Cambodia. Canberra is funding an 8.5-million Australian dollar (Bt250 million) project to provide a more effective and coordinated approach by governments in Southeast Asia to prevent trafficking.

Thailand signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Australia two weeks ago to combat the trade in humans.

And yesterday it signed another, designed to boost customs cooperation between the two countries. The initial focus of the three-year project will be to establish specialist anti-trafficking units within national police agencies.

It also hopes to improve relations between victim support groups and the criminal justice system.

Justice Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana met with Senator Chris Ellison, his Australian counterpart, after a formal lunch at the Plaza Athenee Hotel.

Speaking at the lunch, Senator Ellison said Interpol now classed human trafficking as one of the top three transnational crimes "and it's growing exponentially".

The impact on victims - especially women deceived into or caught in sexual servitude - was "staggering", he said. "It's something that many never recover from - sexual servitude - to degrade them in that way," he said.

"But no one country can fight this crime alone."

Ellison also paid tribute to Thailand for the capture of alleged terror chief Hambali, and thanked Bangkok for "exceptional cooperation" in extraditing suspected people-smugglers and drug dealers.

Pongthep said Thailand was both a transit country and a country of origin for people trafficked abroad, while Australia was usually a "final destination" for traffickers.

"We'll work together. International cooperation is important. We know that people trafficking causes not only harm to the women trafficked, but also their families," he said. "In this way people trafficking is worse than slavery.

"We thank the Australian government for working with us in the past and working with us in the future." As part of the project, Australia will grant new visas to victims of trafficking, and an Australian immigration officer will be stationed full-time in Bangkok to deal exclusively with such matters.

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