Post by: Erin Gregg, intern at UN-ACT’s Regional Management Office. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This last month has seen extensive media coverage focused on the region, after the discovery of mass graves in Southern Thailand and a humanitarian crisis unfolding at sea with overcrowded boats of refugees and economic migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh left stranded between Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In the flurry of media articles that followed, the terms ‘smuggling’ and ‘trafficking’ were often used interchangeably, but whilst the tragedy deserves all attention and needs to be addressed urgently, it may not primarily be one of human trafficking.
In the meantime, recently revealed cases of trafficking in persons remain unresolved, such as those of fishermen found in conditions of forced labor in Indonesia. Reports of Thai, Burmese and Cambodian fishermen rescued from Ambon Island after escaping fishing boats was followed closely by the publication of an Associated Press investigative report about victims of trafficking held in appalling conditions in Benjina. The latter case made international headlines; official delegations were sent to identify victims and the process of repatriation commenced.
UN-ACT will continue to monitor these and other cases of human trafficking, and press for cooperative, regional efforts to counter such patterns in Southeast Asia through the COMMIT framework and beyond.