East Asia and the Pacific

Countries and territories covered: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, The Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Viet Nam, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Micronesia, Federated States of Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Western Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu

1. Status of the legislation on trafficking in persons

Most of the 27 countries in East Asia and the Pacific included in this report have adopted specific legislative provisions to combat trafficking in persons or at least some of its aspects. The exceptions are the four Pacific States of Micronesia, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu where the specific offence of trafficking in persons was not part of their criminal codes. Between 2005 and 2008, eight countries in the region and two of the Pacific Islands introduced new anti-trafficking laws or modified previous provisions on trafficking in persons, so most of the legislation in the region is recent. New Zealand's 2002 legislation is the oldest anti-trafficking legislation in force in the region that criminalizes all aspects of trafficking.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation has been a prominent focus of legislation. As of November 2008, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Viet Nam had specific provisions on trafficking in persons solely addressing sexual exploitation (or trafficking in women and children). Many of the countries that had legislation criminalizing all or most forms of trafficking in persons in 2008 only criminalized trafficking for sexual exploitation prior to 2006.

2. The criminal justice response to trafficking in persons

East Asia was rich in criminal justice statistics for the reporting period. By contrast, a very limited number of cases of trafficking in persons and related offences were detected in the Pacific area.

Trends indicating an increase in the number of cases of trafficking and related offences were detected in Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Timor-Leste, Thailand and Viet Nam. Somewhat stable to decreasing trends in human trafficking cases were recorded in other countries in the region during 2003-2007. Overall, some countries of the Mekong sub-region reported numbers of criminal proceedings that were higher than the regional average.

3. Trafficking in persons patterns

The profile of offenders was rarely available in this region during the reporting period. When information was known, detected offenders were more frequently men, although the number of female offenders was not far behind. Additionally, most offenders were nationals of the country where the case was reported. Based on profiles of victims identified by State authorities or who were assisted by other institutions, women and girls were the primary victims of trafficking in the region. It must be stressed, however, that during 2003-2007, most countries only had legislation criminalizing trafficking for sexual exploitation or trafficking in women. As a consequence, trafficking in men and boys might have gone largely undetected and unreported.

In the Pacific sub-region, Japan, Mongolia, Indonesia and Myanmar, adult women were more commonly reported as victims than were minors. However, trafficking in minors was a more significant issue in the other Mekong countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand) and in the Philippines. With the exception of the Pacific sub-region where no cases of child trafficking were reported, the proportion of minors trafficked relative to the total number of trafficking victims rose in 2003-2007 in all countries of the region. Trafficking in men and boys was reported in the Mekong countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand), Indonesia and Mongolia. Victims were predominantly trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation throughout the region.

Again, however, it must be stressed that until very recently the legislation in many of these countries only included provisions criminalizing trafficking for sexual exploitation. Victims of trafficking for forced labour were identified among those returned to Indonesia, Mongolia, the Mekong sub-region (Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand - no information was available for Myanmar) and, episodically, in the Pacific sub-region. Forced labour in the form of domestic servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced begging, was detected among victims trafficked to Thailand from other countries and in victims assisted by IOM in Indonesia.