Transnational Organized Crime in Southeast Asia: Evolution, Growth and Impact

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released a study of organized crime in Southeast Asia. It confirms that economic disparities within the region have created both a demand for and supply of cheap labour, driving growth in human trafficking.

The report found that the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation remains a serious problem in most countries in the region. Data from the Thai Office of the Attorney General indicate that of the 1,248 detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation during the 2014- 2017 period, almost 70 per cent were girls. Trafficking for sexual exploitation of children in the other Mekong region countries is also a persistent and expanding problem.

The exploitation of both boys and girls primarily for sexual exploitation, but also forced begging, persists in Southeast Asia. Several countries in the region are major destinations for travelling child sex offenders, especially popular tourist destinations in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. In 2017 law enforcement authorities in the Philippines monitored 119 sex offender arrivals, the large majority of which were from the United States (57 persons) and Australia (15 persons).

In many cases, children are also trafficked in the region for the purpose of producing child sexual abuse material that is traded on online platforms, as well as the live streaming of sexual abuse of children. Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand have been reported as important sources of child abuse materials.

To address this situation, the first International Summit on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism resulted in the Call for Action to:

  • Adopt a gender approach to understand this crime; there is a need to target both boys and girls
  • Require law enforcement to ensure control and screening of tourist destinations so potential offenders understand that they will not remain anonymous and avoid punishment
  • Give a special focus to migrant children as they are particularly vulnerable to trafficking – cross border cooperation needs to be strengthened
  • Acknowledge that child trafficking for sexual purposes is not always linked with big organized crime groups, but with individual offenders

Read the full report by UNODC here.

Read the report from the first International Summit on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism here.