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Agencies Hope Children Add Voice to Government Policy on Human Trafficking

The trafficking of women and children throughout Asia continues largely unabated even as governments strengthen laws to halt the trade. Children from the Mekong river region, including some rescued from trafficking, are adding their voices to efforts to halt the trade.

Britain's Save the Children Fund and the United Nation's International Labor Organization (ILO) hopes children can help find "real effective and sustainable solutions against human trafficking."

The two agencies have brought 25 children from the Mekong river region in Southeast Asia, to a forum in Bangkok on the issue. The children are either former trafficking victims or are at risk of being trafficked, and come from Cambodia, China's Yunnan province, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Child trafficking is a growing problem in those five countries.

"Our position is that those who have experienced trafficking should be part of the solutions and should be empowered to claim back their rights to be protected," said, Thetis Mangahas, a chief technical officer with the ILO who is overseeing the children's forum this week.

The forum comes as regional governments such as Thailand and China step up policing efforts to crackdown on traffickers.

The U.N.'s Children's Fund estimates that in Asia alone, some half a million women and children are trafficked each year. Typically, they are forced into harsh labor, or into the sex trade.

Ms. Mangahas says younger and younger children are being trafficked.

"If we are to look at the numbers of children who are getting caught up in shelters and who have been rescued then we're seeing an increasing share of younger victims," she said.

Ms. Mangahas says the children's concerns at the closed-door forum are broader than simply legal reform.

"Children are much more focused on addressing causes of human trafficking - talking about lack of access to education, problems with families, seeking family protection," she said. "At the same time, calling for the elimination of corruption and greater law enforcement."

The children are meeting with officials from each of the five countries in a bid to ensure their concerns are translated into government action.