News

    Child Trafficking Prevalent Throughout Southeast Asia

    Children scavengers pose with their metal hooks used to rummage garbage in a Manila dumpsite
    Child trafficking is rampant in Southeast Asia, with hundreds of thousands of children caught up in this lucrative and shadowy business. VOA'S Nancy-Amelia Collins looks at the situation in the Philippines, where poverty is high and jobs are scarce, and unscrupulous recruiters trick parents into selling their children into prostitution and slavery.

    Child trafficking has become big business in the Philippines, where children are lured from villages across the archipelago with promises of high-paying jobs in and around the nation's capital, Manila.

    But once there, most girls end up in the sex industry, and boys often end up working as virtual slaves on farms and in fish markets.

    In Manila, U.N. Children's Fund child protection officer Victoria Juat says naive children and parents are lured by an old trick.

    "Normally they are promised, words like, 'Okay you will be a house help, you will be a saleslady, you will be a cashier in this restaurant.' But no, it will be something else," said Victoria Juat. "Later they find out no, they will be brought to a brothel, they will be brought to karaoke bars and they will become something else."

    The crime of trafficking children exists throughout Southeast Asia. According to the State Department, the largest number of victims trafficked annually in the world come from this region, often to feed the booming sex-tourism industry.

    As early as the mid-1990s, UNICEF estimated that close to 200,000 foreign child laborers, 70 percent of them boys, had been lured into Thailand from Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Southern China. Tens of thousands are trafficked within their own borders. UNICEF says as many as 35 percent of sex workers in the Mekong River nations are under the age of 17.

    UNICEF also says Thailand is a regional hub through which trafficked children are diverted to other cities and countries in the region, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan.

    Cecilia Flores Oebande, the president of Visayan Forum Foundation, a private organization in the Philippines that helps to rescue and care for trafficked children, says it is a lucrative business.

    "It is, next to drugs and arms smuggling, it is the second most profitable business here in the Philippines," said Cecilia Flores Oebande.

    Most of the children are brought to the capital by ship, the main mode of transport in this nation of more than 7,100 islands.

    The Visayan Forum has teamed up with the Philippine coast guard, the government's Port Authority, and the country's largest shipping company, Aboitez, to keep a sharp eye on arriving boats in the main ports, looking for possible traffickers traveling with groups of children.

    The organization has operations in four main ports serving Manila, and says it rescues between 20 and 60 children a week. But officials say thousands are never found.

    Across the street from Manila's main North Harbor port, Visayan Forum runs an emergency shelter where rescued children stay for several days while social workers attempt to locate their parents.

    Marina Ulleque is a social worker with the Visayan Forum. She meets the boats at Manila's busy international sea port and hands out cards with emergency numbers to possible child victims, telling they can get help.

    She says her work has its dangers. The Visayan Forum has filed nine criminal cases against traffickers on behalf of 31 children during the past three years. No trafficker has been convicted, but Ms. Ulleque says those arrested will sometimes threaten workers from her organization.

    "Sometimes they send their lawyers here and also they say, 'I am the relative of senator so-and-so and I am the friend of the station commander or the port police,' something like that, so we are being harassed," said Marina Ulleque.

    One victim hoping for justice is 17-year-old Menchu, who has been staying for more than a year at a Visayan Forum safe house in Manila waiting for the case of the men who allegedly trafficked her to come to trial.

    Menchu, who comes from a large, poor family on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, was recruited along with a group of friends with promises of high-paying jobs in a Manila restaurant.

    Menchu says that while on the boat, she and her friends saw two men approach their recruiter, and overheard them say the girls looked young and fresh.

    The terrified girls told the ship's authorities, and the traffickers were arrested, but Menchu is still waiting for her day in court.

    The president of Visayan Forum, Cecilia Flores Oebande, says urgent action must be taken to tackle the problem.

    "This is urgent, every day," she said. "We are running out of time, because every day there are children being trafficked. We need to fast-track our action or else it's maybe too late for all of us."

    Despite the efforts of local and international anti-trafficking groups, the problem is growing in Southeast Asia. Many experts say that the extreme poverty in the Philippines, Cambodia, Burma, Laos and Indonesia, combined with poor law enforcement and corruption, means that traffickers will continue to prey on the region's children.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora