Chapter 8
Response to the Problem:
Policies, Legislation and Programmes


There have been a number of programme and activities designed to prevent and protect children from trafficking both within and across border in the subregion. Many anti-trafficking laws have been enforced. Some repatriation programmes have been collaboratively practised between sending and receiving countries. In this chapter, effort will be made to overview what have been done in terms of government policies, legislations and enforcement and programmes in order to address and combat the child trafficking problem at national, bilateral and subregional levels.
8.1 Problems and Difficulties in Assisting Trafficked Children:
(1) Language barriers and communication obstacles These problems make it more difficult to gain access to information on the children’s problems and needs. This sometimes results in provided but not wanted aid and support. Sometimes the aid and support even arrive too late.
(2) No immigration laws to support migrant children in trouble According to the Thai immigration laws, illegal entries are not permitted. Illegal migrant children are therefore not permitted to even be in Thailand. By law, individuals and organizations can not legally help the children even though they are capable of doing so. Once arrested, trafficked children must be transferred to Immigration Detention Centre (IDC).
(3) Need for collaboration in repatriation of returnees
For example, arrested Laotian girls on their return are fined and sent for training at a detention centre. The children are later to be picked up and taken home by their parents. The process can be long and the children are often left with no emotional support at the centre.
(4) Need for community preparation to welcome and support returnees
This is an important process. Communities where victims of child labour were rooted can also help keeping an eye on on-going problems the children have encountered in order to protect them from becoming victims again. Thai NGOs have tried to send victims of trafficking home both formally and informally. There is usually no message back as to whether the victims had been delivered home safely.
(5) In case of begging and soliciting business, it was reported that it is rather difficult to have the Thai laws enforced on the business owners and the agents. Each time someone begging and soliciting is arrested, it is a child who is already a victim of the business. When the child is repatriated, he/she is picked up again at a border by their same old agents.
(6) For migrants from Myanmar, it was repeatedly reported that ethnic people of Myanmar are not considered Burmans and are not identified with any Burman identification. When pushed out of Thailand, these people are left along the border not knowing which side of the land they should step on and call it home. There is never any confidence that once arriving somewhere in Myanmar, they are welcomed or are able to get away from human trade networks and their agents.
(7) Need for the right attitudes in working to combat trafficking in children and need for respect for the victims
In the process of getting help to trafficked victims, oftentimes the children are found harassed, abused and raped by authorities. Frequently, it is by different divisions of the Thai police. There should be systematic and organized strategies where involved agencies brainstorm and implement on their part to make sure that the problem of trafficking in children is really taken care of.
8.2 Response to International Standards and Sub-regional Cooperation
The efforts to solve problems related to trafficking of children in Mekong subregion vary among countries. Although the majority of the countries have ratified many conventions in relation to child labour, especially the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989), the direction to comply with the conditions in that ratification are significantly different. An effort to push every country to go in the same direction is therefore not easy. For example, Thailand has ratified conventions in relation to trafficking and bonded labour of children and women such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (CRC), the Convention for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons and Exploitation of prostitution of Others, the Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1985) (CEDAW), and international labour conventions such as NO.29 on Forced Labour and NO.123 on Minimum age (underground work). Cambodia also signed the UN CRC in 1992 and this has reflected the country in its increased concern in child welfare issues.
At the beginning, the Thai government had not yet had clear plans or strategies for the problem in this regard. After being confronted with the problem over the past few years and with constant requests for collaboration from international movements via local and international agencies, especially on the issue concerning trafficking of children and women into the sex industry in Thailand, the Thai government has paid more attention to the issue and has taken initiatives in finding cooperation and collaboration among countries in the region to develop plans and strategies to combat the problem.
Besides adopting some important international legislations, some countries in Maekong basin have established local and international networks among institutions and individuals. An example of such bilateral collaboration was an attempt to fight against trafficking in women and children between the Department for the Prevention and Control of Social Evils in Ho Chi Minh City and the Center for Protection of Children in Cambodia. Delegates from Ho Chi Minh City visited Phnom Penh during march 17 -21, 1997 and discussed issues such as conditions of Vietnamese child prostitutes in Cambodia, what formalities should be done to repatriate the children, prevention of such acts, and collaboration between Vietnam and Cambodia.
As for Thailand and Yunnan Province of China, the police agencies have basically agreed to cooperate in a repatriation program of Yunnanese girls trafficked into prostitution in Thailand. Thai authorities and NGOs are to inform the Chinese Embassy or Chinese Consulate in Thailand in case they come across trafficked victims from China. The Chinese authority will provide support in repatriating the victims and finally reintegrate the victims into their home villages, schools, work places, and etc. on the other end. If trafficked victims require health services, necessary care will be provided on the other end as well.
Furthermore, specific workshops and conferences on issues of trafficking in children are organized. Delegates from the Mekong basin countries periodically gather and discuss about subregional cooperation and collaboration to combat the human trade. Issues discussed include legislative landmarks and law enforcement, cross-border cooperation, and repatriation by means which are cultural and gender sensitive as well as children and women friendly. The most recent one is the regional conference on ‘Illegal Movement of Labour: A Case of Trafficking in Women and Children’ organized by Mekong Regional Law Center and National Commission on Women’s Affairs of Thailand (NCWA) in November 1997. As one outcome of the meeting, all participating countries promised to push significant steps forward to combat the problems. Vietnam, as an example, agreed to establish a national committee for the coordination of activities aiming to stop the trafficking of women and children in the region. The government of Lao PDR also learned a lesson that migration and trafficking was in fact a problem for the country after being informed that there were over ten thousand workers from Laos in Thailand after 3-4 years of denial. The incidence drew the attention of the Laos government. Consequently, the government began to collect information regarding employment, migration patterns, and possible trafficking networks. It also resulted in cooperation with Thailand in the recent years. In addition, the government allows NGOs the opportunity to learn to prevent illegal migration to Thailand.
In 1997, the government of Lao PDR proposed to Thailand that, when Thailand needs labour from Laos, formal agreement between the two countries should be made to accommodate both employees from Laos and employers in Thailand.
Besides adopting some related UN conventions and attending sub-regional conferences to raise consciousness awareness of the issue and bilaterally agree to develop programs to fight against immediate problems related to child trafficking as described, countries in the Mekong region have not yet committed to other agreements or other forms of agreements. Policies and implementations reflecting the work to combat trafficking in children in the region are mostly actions at national-based level.
Last updated: 07 June 2000 Arrowback.gif (1004 bytes) arrow.gif (1001 bytes)

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