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Top UN rights official heads to East Timor after wrapping up visit to Cambodia

Top UN rights official heads to East Timor after wrapping up visit to Cambodia

Mary Robinson
The top United Nations human rights official today headed to East Timor after wrapping up her visit to Cambodia, where she highlighted the problem of human trafficking in the region.

In an address yesterday to Cambodia's National Assembly, Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that Southeast Asia remained a major centre for the trafficking of women and children, with more than 200,000 persons trafficked in the region every year.

The High Commissioner noted that the scourge was a cross-border issue in Southeast Asia. Cambodia was a source, as well as transit and receiving country. Vietnamese girls and women were trafficked into Cambodia, while Cambodian children, women and men were sent to Thailand and other countries to do the most degrading work.

"The women and children who are subjected to this inhumane cruelty are not foreign to us," Mrs. Robinson said of the victims. "They are our sisters and daughters, they are our children. This trafficking in them must stop."

She urged all countries in the region to work together to end what she called "this vicious and inhuman trade." In her appeal, Mrs. Robinson urged governments in the region to adopt national action plans to combat trafficking as part of the UN's Inter-Agency Project on Trafficking in Women and Children in the Mekong Sub-Region.

The High Commissioner stressed that human rights must be the core of any credible anti- trafficking strategy. "A human rights approach also demands that we acknowledge the responsibility of governments to protect and promote the rights of all persons within their jurisdictions," she said. "This responsibility translates into a legal obligation for governments to work towards eliminating trafficking and related exploitation."