Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand,Vietnam

UN hails Thai plans to increase human trafficking penalties

BANGKOK, May 14 (AFP) - The United Nations Friday welcomed Thailand's decision to give human trafficking the same urgency as combating narcotics, but cautioned against a crackdown similar to the kingdom's controversial war on drugs.
"We welcome Thailand's initiative as Thailand is a very important regional player and this is a very positive policy," the UN Development Program (UNDP) resident representative Robert England told AFP.
"But it is important to keep in mind the human rights of the victims, as sometimes when the law is carried out victims can suffer," said England, referring to the controversy which surrounded the first phase of the Thai government's drug war last year.

Thailand has faced flak from the UN, rights groups and foreign governments over the drugs war which left more than 2,000 drug suspects dead, many in confrontations with police.
The comments follow a decision by Thailand Thursday to prosecute human traffickers under the same asset-seizure laws governing drug traders.

Human trafficking was as "urgent and important an issue as drugs," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Purachai Piumsombun said Thursday, adding that the victims of trafficking needed to be treated with greater compassion by authorities.
Purachai made the comments at the start of a two-day government meeting on human trafficking attended by Thai police and the UN.

UN regional human trafficking official Philip Robertson said the government had shown a clear determination to handle the issue with a firm but understanding approach.

"I think there's an understanding that this has to be handled with an eye for human rights, not just for traffickers but for victims, and I think there is an appreciation of that by the Thai government," he said.
Trafficking ranks among the fastest growing transnational crimes. The US State Department believes as many as two million people, the vast majority of them women and children, are trafficked across international borders each year.
For these women and children, promises of jobs and financial security turn into nightmares of sexual slavery, bonded labour and other forms of human rights abuses.

Experts estimate the multi-billion-dollar business is more lucrative than the illegal trade in weapons.
Thailand's trafficking problem is particularly acute, as the kingdom is simultaneously a country of origin, transit and destination.

Michael Mathes
18th floor, Alma Link Building
25 Soi Chidlom, Ploenchit Road
Bangkok 10330
Tel: 66-2-650-3230
Fax: 66-2-650-3234
Mobile: 66-1-890-4816

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