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Mekong ministers gather in Cambodia for fighting human trafficking

PHNOM PENH, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Ministers and representatives from the six Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam met here Thursday to intensify cooperation in fighting human trafficking.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 4th Inter-Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) Process, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng said human trafficking severely violated the most basic of human rights and caused great suffering to victims and their families.

"Moreover, human trafficking creates a heavy burden for all affected societies and their respective governments. Therefore, strong and sustained collaborative efforts among the GMS countries are essential to address this grave problem," he said.

The International Labor Organization estimates that approximately 20.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor and almost 20 percent of these victims are children, according to Sar Kheng.

"The GMS is a region where there are especially high numbers of victims in situations of serious exploitation, forced labor and sexual abuse," he said. "These abuses occur among migrants, including labor migrants and persons who enter risky marriages without proper contracts or legal assurances."

The deputy prime minister said human trafficking abuses and exploitation cannot be eliminated without joint commitments from all countries involved.

"This meeting provides a valuable opportunity for us to unite in our efforts to improve coordination and actions to combat human trafficking in the region," said Sar Kheng.

Cambodian Women's Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi said the ministers are expected to endorse the 4th COMMIT Sub-Regional Plan of Action for the period 2015 to 2018, focusing on policy and cooperation, prevention, protection, punishment, and follow-up and assessment.

Moreover, the ministers will also sign the 3rd COMMIT Joint Declaration, which is aimed to take all means and measures to eradicate all forms of human trafficking in the GMS countries.

The regional meeting brought together about 500 participants, who are ministers, senior officials from the GMS, ASEAN, international organizations, United Nations agencies, donors, civil society and youth groups.

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