UN Envoy urges Thailand to tackle trafficking, Second Khmer Rouge trial faces further delays

Updated On: Aug 25, 2011

The U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, Joy Ezeilo, has urged Thailand to do more to overcome the problem of irregular migrants and overcome corruption linked to trafficking in the country.

According to investigations, senior officials at the UN have found countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region including Thailand, Cambodia and Laos are failing to apply existing laws aimed at combating human trafficking.  

The conclusions come as a U.N. envoy on human trafficking concluded a 10-day assessment of Thailand's efforts to curb labor migration abuses. She called on Thailand to take the lead in Southeast Asia's battle against human trafficking and to do more to protect the rights of migrant workers

Ezeilo said within Thailand, internal trafficking of children is also rampant, including children of hill tribe communities. The trafficking fuels child prostitution, pornography and sex tourism, estimated to be worth millions of dollars to criminal gangs across the region.

Martin Reeve, an advisor to the UN, argues for a multifaceted approach to combat trafficking.

"Certainly law enforcement can't do it on its own, neither can government policy, neither can civil society," said Reeve.  "So really you do need a multilateral approach to this - the business community. The business community can look at its own practices and to make sure that it's not involving exploitative labor at any point during the supply process - and that's a key thing."

The issue of trafficking made headlines in Singapore earlier this year when the Singapore government refuted a United States report on human trafficking, which though acknowledged an improvement the country's efforts to tackle trafficking, made some points on how it could improve.

UN Urges Asia to Enforce Human Trafficking Laws (Voice of America, 19 August 2011)
UN urges Thailand to curb human trafficking (Al Jazeera, 25 August 2011)
S'pore refutes human trafficking report  (Straits Times, 2 August 2011)

In Cambodia, a trial of against four top leaders of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime has been delayed due to recognition that one of the defendants requires psychiatric tests to determine her fitness to stand trial.

The elderly defendants face charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over the deaths of up to two million people, in the court's second and long-awaited trial. The other former leaders facing trial are: Nuon Chea, who was deputy to the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot; Khieu Samphan, the regime’s head of state; and Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister.

If Ieng Thirith is found to be unfit for trial, NGO legal adviser, Anne Heindel says, that could mean a temporary or even a permanent suspension of the case against her, depending on how she responds to treatment.

“It’s not just a medical assessment," Heindel says.  "It’s the legal evaluation of a medical assessment. Can you participate in your defense? Can you instruct your counsel? Do you understand what your plea means? Do you understand what’s going on in the proceedings?"

She believes the process to determine mental fitness "is likely to take until the end of the year".

All four deny charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The prospect of delays has led to concerns that some of the defendents, aged 79 to 85, will not live to see a verdict.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of the population through starvation, overwork or executions in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

KRouge trial faces delays over health woes: observers (AFP, 24 August 2011)
Genocide Trial of Khmer Rouge Leaders Likely Delayed Until 2012 (Voice of America, 24 August 2011)

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