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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Multilateral treaties needed to end flesh trade, say delegates

Multilateral treaties needed to end flesh trade, say delegates

At the end of a two-day trafficking conference in the capital, delegates say such treaties, once signed, need to be effectively implemented.

A MAJOR regional anti-trafficking conference ended Tuesday with the five participating countries issuing a set of 13 recommendations that outline policies expected to improve cooperation and standardise the implementation of trafficking laws.

The two-day conference marked the first time that Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia and Cambodia had gathered to address the problem of cross-border human trafficking, said Chou Bun Eng, the chair of Cambodia's High Level Working Group to Combat Human Trafficking,

Smuggling, Labour and Sexual Commercial Exploitation (HLWG).

She said the conference, called the Intercountry Consultative Dialogue on Combating Human Trafficking, offered a good opportunity to identify gaps in the international fight to end the flesh trade, adding that countries in the region needed to sign bilateral and multilateral agreements to further cooperation.

"If one country signs and another does not, it is a barrier to collaboration," she said in an interview.

Chou Bun Eng said she had discussed with delegates from Malaysia how to pass a memorandum of understanding that would make it easier for Cambodians to send workers to Malaysia legally.

"We need to start with bilateral agreements," she said, "and next we will move from bilateral to multilateral."

Nandita Baruah, the chief of party at the Asia Foundation's Counter-Trafficking in Persons Program, emphasised that multilateral agreements, once signed, need to be effectively implemented.

If one country signs and another does not, it is a barrier to collaboration.

"What we need to put in place are operational mechanisms ... which make the memorandums a reality," she said, stressing the need to have a common set of minimum standards for the treatment of victims.
Since 2004, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia have been party to a multilateral agreement with Laos, Myanmar and China called the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT), At the meeting, delegates praised COMMIT as a model for multilateral efforts against trafficking.

Baruah said the presence of so many high-level representatives from different countries showed that "countries in the region are not taking human trafficking lightly".

The chair of the HLWG, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, told the audience that Cambodia remained committed to fighting the flesh trade no matter how the US State Department ranked the country in terms of its anti-trafficking efforts.

"Despite some of our best efforts, we have this year been put on the Tier 2 watch list as per the US TIP ratings," Sar Kheng said. "We are a bit saddened by this; however, this only increases our resolve to continue to work with greater commitment on the issue."

The countries did not always agree on everything. Choon-Jin Kim, a member of South Korea's National Assembly, told the audience that Korea had a different understanding of the definition of trafficking that did not include Cambodian women who go to South Korea for marriage.

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