10/13/2005, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Slave trade flourishing in Vietnam

The government says 9,000 people have been trafficked by the racket but NGOs claim the estimate is "too low". The majority of victims are women kidnapped and forced to work as prostitutes in China.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The slave trade in Vietnam is making unhindered progress as traffickers running the racket evade controls to proceed with their activities, say international human rights organizations. A spokesman at the Hanoi branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said that "while there is lack of clear data, human trafficking is on the increase".

The government said that around 9,000 Vietnamese were trafficked in the past year, most of them women under 25 years who were sold to China for the prostitution market. International organizations say this estimate is "too low".

Most traffickers are of Vietnamese nationality and they work together with their Chinese counterparts. To ensnare their victims – usually coming from poor villages – they use diverse means, like promises of marriage to rich men or offers of work. Other times, people are drugged and thrown into a truck. Apart from women, many children are kidnapped.

Last year, Vietnam and China launched an unprecedented joint campaign to stop the flow of slaves between the two countries. Some trafficking groups were exposed and information campaigns were organized in villages. However, the attempt has proved ineffective in the face of market forces, that is, improved mobility combined with economic growth excluding rural areas, leading to inequality.

Nguyen Manh Te, a senior official with Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security, said "poverty is held to the main reason behind trafficking" and, he added, "it is difficult to find a solution to the problem".

The office of the International Organisation for migration (IOM) in Hanoi, one of several foreign agencies supporting the Vietnam initiative against the slave trade, said mobility was a serious obstacle in the fight against trafficking.

"By now there is road access to all but the most remote, poverty-plagued villages in Vietnam," said Andy Bruce, mission chief for the IOM in Vietnam. "Abuse and mobility go hand in hand."

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