The 4th senior officials meeting of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) process concluded Friday in Phnom Penh with the determination to further strength the fight against human trafficking in the region.
Over 30 senior government officials from the six Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) governments, Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam attended the three-day meeting.
During the meeting, they reviewed and assessed the course of cooperation on trafficking in the Mekong region for the next decade and more.
The six countries expressed their satisfaction on the progress made in past years since the signing of the historic COMMIT Memorandum of Understanding in Yangon, Myanmar in October 2004.
The fact that the number of trafficking prosecutions has risen does not mean that the problem is increasing, said Susu Thatun, of the COMMIT. "The governments, the law enforcement officials, civil society and NGOs of the region are now more alert to the issues," she added.
The efforts made by the six countries include laying the foundation for a network of cooperation to stop traffickers and prosecute them, protecting victims of trafficking and assisting them return safely home, and launching efforts to prevent others from sharing the same fate.
At the meeting, the governments also demonstrated their concrete actions that had been taken over the past year, and fine- tune plans for activities in the coming year.
The Chinese delegation has said that the regional workshop among the COMMIT countries triggered off their recognition to develop its first National Plan of Action on Human Trafficking.
Myanmar has recently passed a new national law on trafficking in persons. Laos and Thailand have innovated a new bilateral arrangement between the two countries to use information from the community to trace actual missing persons in Thailand and use existing repatriation mechanisms to return them home safely.
Cambodia has been leading the way in promoting child safe tourism and reporting on their strengthened law enforcement response. While Vietnam has been moving forward on implementing their national plan of action on human trafficking.
While significant achievements from the past year were highlighted, the six GMS governments acknowledged that the crime of human trafficking continues to prevail in the region and they still face great challenges.
They cited widespread forms of trafficking, including new opportunities to exploit the migratory; children and adolescents of the region being trafficked to fill a large international and local market for commercial sexual exploitation; and not only women, but also men been trafficked for factory, plantation or construction work.
They attributed the region's human trafficking to a lot of factors and resources, such as the nation's poverty, lower education and in short of living skills.
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, at the opening ceremony Wednesday, highlighted the "need to work together towards the creation of a society where is zero tolerance for this type of unacceptable abuse."
He also urged the international community to join hands with them "to make this world a better future, void of exploitative practices and human rights abuses that we call human trafficking."
The meeting agreed to hold its 5th COMMIT Senior Officials Meeting in Beijing, China in 2007.