BY SIMON TAY, AARON CHOO & SHANGARI KIRUPPALINI
Regional leaders inaugurated an ASEAN (Association of South-east Asian Nations) Community at the end of last year to bring their 10 countries closer — not only for economic integration, but also on security and political issues as well as social and cultural affairs.
One test for this dream of Community is whether the lives of ordinary citizens will improve and one hard issue will be the ongoing tragedy of trafficking in people.
Last year, mass graves were discovered along the border of Thailand and Malaysia, containing the remains of more than 200 people. The cases are still under investigation, but most fear the victims were from the Rakhine state in Myanmar — called the Rohingya by some — and had been kidnapped or illegally trafficked before being abandoned and killed.
Beyond the headlines about the Rohingya, millions are trafficked across South-east Asia to work in different industries — including the sex industry, fishing and on plantations. Accurate figures for the region are debatable, but, for the Asia-Pacific, the International Labour Organization estimates that there are now more than 11.7 million victims of forced labour. A much stronger effort is needed to stem the illegal trafficking in persons.
By the end of this month, countries will submit statements about the steps they have taken to the United States State Department annual Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report. This grades countries on a four-category list, according to the extent of the problem and the efforts being taken. To date, most ASEAN member states occupy the middle ranks. Read more