Tuesday, March 15, 2005


A United Nations initiative to fight sex trafficking in South Asia today hailed the first prosecution based on multilateral action as a "stunning success," calling the 85-year prison sentence imposed by a Thai court on a Cambodian national for procuring under-aged women for prostitution "a groundbreaking decision."

The case involved movement across three countries, and required officials and non-governmental agencies to join forces, the six-nation UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (UNIAP) announced in Bangkok.

The prosecution rested on the testimony of eight Cambodian women, who left their home village believing they would be offered work as noodle and clothes sellers in Bangkok. Instead, they were held in Samut Prakan before being sold into a Malaysian brothel by the Cambodian national, identified as Ms. Khunthea.

Malaysian authorities later detained them as illegal migrants. A long process of escape, re-victimization and rescue culminated in their appearance in court to testify against Ms. Khunthea in Bangkok.

According to Thai Criminal Procedure, Ms. Khunthea will only serve a 50-year jail term. UNIAP was established in 2000 to facilitate a stronger and more coordinated response to human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, comprising Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. It brings together the six governments, 13 UN agencies and eight international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

At the country level, the project includes an extensive network of government, local and international NGOs, UN organizations, donors and links to networks in south Asia and beyond.