Singapore, 28 July 2011

ASEAN has taken progressive and aggressive criminal justice response, to counter the threat of trafficking in persons. And these responses have taken place at national and regional levels. Following the publication of the ASEAN Handbook on International Cooperation in Trafficking in Persons Cases last year, the ASEAN Progress Report on the Criminal Justice Response to Trafficking in Persons, was launched today during the 11th Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) meeting held here.

The Progress Report is a review of the achievements over the past decade, as well as an assessment of the challenges that lie ahead. Each chapter provides a detailed overview, of the relevant standards that have emerged through a combination of international, regional and national laws and policies. The standards also include good practices within and the beyond the ASEAN. Each chapter also examines how the ASEAN Member States (AMS) had fared, and the major obstacles and opportunities facing the AMS. A checklist is provided at the end of each chapter, which the AMS can assess itself, and to identify areas for improvement.

The Progress Report is more than a compilation of publicly available information. It also aims to describe and examine national and regional responses to human trafficking in ASEAN.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, commended that the Progress Report is a unique innovation, and one that may well provide a model for other countries and other regions.

“The Progress Report confirms that in this part of the world as well as in any other, traffickers are rarely identified, prosecuted and convicted. Victims of trafficking rarely receive any form of justice or redress for the harms committed against them,” he said, adding that “National criminal justice systems are not yet fully up to the task of investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating this crime and the incidence of cross-border cooperation remains much too low.”

“In seeking to change this situation, we must be absolutely clear that trafficking in persons has not place in ASEAN society: that every man, woman and child in this region has a right to live in freedom and dignity”.

Dr Surin also called on all ASEAN governments to continue their good work in realising effective criminal justice responses to trafficking.

The ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) is the sectoral body responsible for tacking transnational organised crime prevalent in ASEAN. Under the purview of SOMTC, trafficking in persons, along with illicit drugs trafficking, counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering, is considered as the area of priority.

The ASEAN Progress Report was developed by the expert team of Asia Region Trafficking in Persons (ARTIP), as requested by the ASEAN Senior Officials on Transnational Crime (SOMTC); and supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

The ARTIP project is a long term regional capacity building programme with the specific focus on criminal justice response to trafficking in persons. Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam are the project countries of ARTIP. The other three countries – Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Singapore – participate as Observers.