8.4 Legislative Framework and Law Enforcement
The Maekong sub-region countries have mostly included articles regulating penalties for violation of children’s rights and have amended the articles over time to appropriately respond to current situations. Countries like Vietnam and Thailand have long history of having laws and regulations to promote and protect children’s rights. Various international Conventions, Declarations, and Plans of Action have been ratified, adapted, applied and enforced in different countries in the sub-region. The effectiveness of law enforcement, however, depends on each country’s law enforcement officers, who are ironically the same for every country in the sub-region, police officers. Legal acts as a result of law enforcement have been to periodically raids prostitution rings and pornography businesses, and arrest and repatriate trafficked victims. Priority to enforce the laws also depends upon the cabinet resolution and law enforcement officers.
Laws which most countries have recently used to combat trafficking in children and prostitution include the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act and the Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Women and Children Act. Both laws criminalize prostitution, procurement and importation of girls from or to overseas, and selling or buying them for the purpose of prostitution, or other purposes. For Immigration laws and regulations, most countries also follow a rather similar line of practices. That is, all attempts to enter a country without legal documents are considered unlawful and are subject to punishment, no matter conducted by whom. Victims of trafficking are not exceptions, and therefore treated the same as other illegal immigrants.
(1) Thailand
(a) The 1996 Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act: The Prostitution Act was the revision of 1960 Acts of similar name. The former Act intended to outlaw all forms of prostitution and the penalty for prostitutes was more severe than that for procurers. But the present Act has decriminalized prostitution and treated prostitution as victims of poverty, social problems and organized crime. The heavier penalty is for procurers, brothel owners, pimps, managers, mamasans, customers and even parents who send their children into prostitute.
(b) The 1997 Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Women and Children Act: The Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Women and Children Act stipulates that conspiracy to commit an offence regarding trafficking in women and children is already a crime and subjected to punishment. The penalty for traffickers is imprisonment from one to twenty years. The officials have wider authority in searching and inspecting places. The victims are to be helped and rescued; and provision are made to facilitate legal procedures.
(c) The 1969 Immigration Act: Any foreigner who does not entering into Thailand through an immigration control point, with a valid passport and visa or other legal document, is considered and illegal immigrant. It is an offence punishable with two years imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 40 USD. The victims of trafficking are treated the same as other illegal immigrants because they are treated as victims and offenders, with the charge of illegal enter into the country, at the same time. They have to go to the court and pay a fine for the offence. If they cannot afford to pay, they have to spend a considerable time in a prison. When the prison term is over, they are released from the prison in order to be detained again in the IDC, waiting to be sent home.
(d) National Legislation Relating to Child Labour There is no special law on child labour in Thailand but there are two relevant legislations: The Proclamation of the National Executive Council No.103 in 1972, and the Notification of the Ministry of Interior No.12 in 1990. The most important provisions are included in the latter, among others (Banpasirichot 1995:17):
+ The prohibition of employment of chidden aged under 13.
+ Employment of children aged 13 to 15 requires special permission.
+ Children are entitled to occasional leave with pay for education or skill development.
The effectiveness of law enforcement for the suppression of traffic in women and children in Thailand depends very much on the active or passive roles of the police. According to the Criminal Procedure Code only the police can initiate a case. Immigration Bureau who controls all the border passage is also under the Police Department. The limited resources of the police compared to all the crimes in its’ responsibility force them to select crimes they believe should be handled first. In this regard, the National Commission on Women’s Affairs (NCWA) has also set up a monitoring system for law enforcement. Two representative of a Thai NGO called FACE (The Coalition Fight Against Child Exploitation), are assigned to follow all cases that come to the police attention, whether the victims or the offenders are Thai or foreigners. In doing so, it is expected that the whole procedure of enforcement is being watched and any suspected irregularities should be reported to the authorities.
(2) Lao PDR
Lao PDR has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Right of Child. Domestic laws together with the 1991 National Constitution, the Penal Code, Labour Law, and civil codes, have firmly placed children’s and women’s rights into the first comprehensive legal framework in the nation’s history. The Government also signed the Declaration and Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children in 1991. Subsequently, the National Commission for Mothers and Children (NCMC) was established to draw up the first National Programme of Action for the Children (NPA).
Prostitution and pornography are illegal in Lao PDR. The Police periodically raids prostitution rings. Night clubs are allowed to open up until midnight in Vientiane Municipality while they are recently banned in Champasak Province. Punishment is 5 to 15 years of imprisonment for trading or abduction of humans, 3 to 5 years for pimps, brothel owners, and traffickers, and 3 months to 1 year for prostitution. Re-education or detention camps for prostitution and juvenile delinquency seem to have only limited success, as some offenders continue to make several repeated offenses.
(3) Myanmar
Myanmar has ratified many conventions in relation to trafficking in women and children. Subsequently the Government has promulgated domestic legislations to follow the ratification. The following are examples of domestic laws:
The Child Law, 1993 contains many provisions to protect children from exploitation, abuse, sale, etc., in order to ensure a full scale of child’s development.
The Suppression of Prostitution Act, 1949. Prostitution is discouraged and soliciting in public is crime. It is illegal to force a woman into prostitution.
The Penal Code, 1860 Various sections refer to offenses against children such as procurement of girls, importation of girls from or to overseas, selling or buying of minors for purpose of prostitution.
Regarding law enforcement, the Myanmar Police Force has taken action under Penal Code sections 359-366 against those trying for export to a foreign country, for abduction and persuasion of boys under 14 years of age and girls under 16 years of age from the hands of their lawful guardians. The penalty for such offenses ranges from seven through ten years of imprisonment. The penalty for prostitution of girls under 18 years of age through use force and through seduction and character destruction, is ten years imprisonment. Causing severe pain, stealing and procuring children with an intent to use them as slaves or sell them for the same purpose can also get an imprisonment ranging from 10 years through a life term (Myanmar Police Force 1997).
(4) Cambodia
In 1992 Cambodia signed the UN-Convention on the Rights of the child reflecting the increased concern of the government in child welfare issues. Over the last few years efforts to address the problem of child exploitation and trafficking of women and children have been stepped-up by the government with the help of ILO-IPEC, UNICEF, IOM, WVI-C, CWDA, Vigilance, AFESIP,CCPCR, SCF(UK), Krousar Thmey, ASPECA, LICADHO, ECPAT-Cambodia.

Article 31, of the Constitution of Cambodia adopted in 1993 explicitly stated that ‘the government shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nation charter, the universal declaration of human rights, and the convenience and conventions related to human rights, women's and children's rights.’ It also further stated that ‘the commerce in human beings, exploitation by prostitution and obscenity, which affect the reputation of women’ shall be prohibited.

In January 1996 the National Assembly adopted a new and first law on Suppression of the Kidnapping and Trafficking/Sales of Human Persons and Exploitation of Human Persons. Article 3 of this law stated that ‘ Any person who lures a human person, even male or female, minor or adult of whichever nationality by way of enticing or by any other means, promising to offer any money or jewelry, even though upon there is or no consent, by ways, in order to kidnap him/her for trafficking/sale for prostitution shall be subjected to imprisonment from 15 to 20 years, if such victim is a minor person of less than 15 years old. This law further stipulated that a number of exploiters in trafficking provided that :
i. Person who commits debauchery acts onto a minor person of below 15 years old.
ii. Person who opens a place for committing a debauchery or obscene acts.
iii. The accomplices or those who attempt to commit the offenses.
iv. Person who lure a human person.
v. Person pimp or head/owner of a brothel.
vi. Person who acts as an intermediary.
vii. Person who shares the benefits obtained from the prostitution and
viii. Person who confines men or women in his/her house or any place, for a purpose of forcing them to commit prostitution.
Other relevant legislation
In January 1997 the National Assembly adopted a new labour code. The new labour code sets the minimum age of admission to employment at 15 (article 177). It is further stated in article 181 that minors, whatever their sex, below the age of 18 and still under the responsibility of their parents or guardians can not engage in any type of work contract without their prior approval. This labour law are largely in line with ILO convention No 138 which sets the minimum age for admission, convention No 29 on the forced labour and convention No 4 on night work (women).
However, article 177 stipulated that children aged between 12 and 15 years of age can be engaged in light work provided that : i/ the work is not hazardous to their health and psychological development; and ii/ the work will not affect their school attendance or their participation in vocational training programmes approved by the competent authorities.
Another legislation related to the combat and prevent the trafficking is the immigration law. This law requires all non-Cambodian nationalities traveling to Cambodia to have appropriate travel documents. However, the victim of trafficking from other countries are not protected by this law as stated in article 29 which indicates ‘ any alien without authorization entering the Kingdom of Cambodia by clandestinity or fraud or by any other forms whatsoever, contrary to the provision of this law, shall be subjected to condemnation from three to six months imprisonment, before he/she is expelled.
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