Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Monday August 28, 2006

Hanoi- The trafficking of women and children across the Vietnam-China border appears to be on the rise, a Vietnamese border officer said Monday at a conference in Hanoi. There have been 167 cases of women and children rescued from traffickers so far this year, up 64 per cent over the same period last year, according to Luong Van Giang, deputy director of the reconnaissance department of the northern border guard.

He added that the true number of women and children who are the victims of trafficking was likely much higher but impossible to estimate.

“It is happening in a very complicated way,” Giang said. “It’s like a hidden crime.”

About 120 Vietnamese and Chinese children ages 11 to 18 met Monday with law-enforcement officials from both countries to discuss ways to combat the trafficking problem.

Vietnam has launched pilot education programmes in 30 rural communes where poverty and lack of opportunity make families more likely to allow children to be sent away for job opportunities. Often, those children end up as virtual slaves working as maids or prostitutes or are married off against their will.

The conference, supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), was the first of its kind in Vietnam, according to Jesper Morch, the UNICEF representative in Vietnam

“It would have been unthinkable even five years ago that we could have a forum like this where children expressed their views on trafficking,” Morch said. “Children must be given a voice,”

According to figures released at the forum, an estimated 1.2 million children around the world are trafficked each year for sex or labour. Morch cautioned that there was no way to confirm that number but added that in countries like China and Vietnam, the problem is clearly growing.

The young representatives, who were not themselves trafficking victims, advised the communist women’s unions of both China and Vietnam how to build appealing education campaigns for children and families to be aware of traffickers ploys.

© 2006 DPA – Deutsche Presse-Agenteur