European forum tackles child trafficking in Asia
BRUSSELS, Belgium —Children are being trafficked between Asian countries in the Mekong region, and donors, both government and private organizations, are paying little attention, according to a United Nations project officer.
Children from Myanmar are being trafficked into China for forced marriages and sex exploitation, and into Thailand for fishing and seafood processing, begging, selling small items, and sexual exploitation, Annette Lyth said.
Cambodian children are sent to Thailand for agriculture, factory, construction, domestic servitude, fishing and begging, and into Vietnam for begging and agriculture, said Lyth, regional project manager of the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.
Vietnamese children are sent to China for adoption, marriage and sexual exploitation, and Laotian kids into Thailand for sexual exploitation, servitude, construction and agriculture, she said.
While Thailand is a destination country, it suffers from internal trafficking of children for sexual exploitation. China also experiences a similar phenomenon but for many other reasons such as illegal adoption, forced marriages and forced labor on top of sexual exploitation, Lyth said.
“There are many flows going into this region,’’ she said at a forum on human trafficking organized by Konrad Adenauer Foundation, European Union, East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore and European Policy Centre here on Sept. 17.
The forum was covered by Asian journalists.
Filipino prosecutor Jedrek Ng of the Department of Justice’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, who spoke on the country’s anti-trafficking law, said the Philippines was both a destination and transshipment point. He said the council had no data on trafficked children.
In 2002, the International Labor Organization estimated that 1.2 million children were being trafficked globally every year, and the figure is believed to have risen this year.
In an interview of 200 victims, including 107 children, UNIAP made startling discoveries beyond the statistics: Children were being trafficked at a such tender ages they have totally forgotten their language and country of origin.
One was trafficked when he was baby, and grew up begging in the streets, and was forbidden to call his handlers mom and dad, according to Lyth.
The children found themselves in “very harsh’’ working conditions, had little time to rest, and were trafficked for very long periods of time, she said.
“I’ve been quite surprised to see how donors are providing [little] attention to the issue of trafficking,’’ she said.
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