BEIJING – Cross-border human trafficking for forced labor and prostitution is a growing problem along China's southern border, officials said Friday at a conference on the issue.
Greater cooperation among the various countries will be needed to fight the problem and track criminal gangs dealing in humans, officials from China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam said on the final day of the conference.
China uncovered 2,500 cases of human trafficking last year, and most involved criminal gangs, Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Zhang Xinfeng said.
Zhang said the number of cross-border cases was still small at about 100. But he added the trend was for that "to grow and we need to further strengthen our cooperation and carry out further joint actions to combat this tendency."
A lack of reliable data makes it a difficult problem to tackle, and most of the information mainly comes from those who have been arrested and caught.
Representatives from the six countries that first reached agreement on human trafficking in 2004 met in Beijing this week to sign a declaration aimed at ending the problem.
Cambodian Minister for Women's Affairs, Ing Kantha Phavi, said the problem was not only a matter of criminal prosecution but of prevention. She was the only representative not from a law enforcement body and the only woman at the meeting.
"We need an ... approach where all ministries can work together," she said.
Myanmar's Minister for Home Affairs, Gen. Maung Oo, said his country had stiff penalties of 10 years in prison to death for human trafficking, but faced problems because of its porous borders.
The Bush administration has said Myanmar is ineligible for U.S. aid for failing to meet minimum standards of fighting human trafficking.
The meeting ended a day after five people were jailed for abducting and trafficking eight boys in southern China's manufacturing center of Guangdong province.
The official Xinhua News Agency the five enticed boys with snacks. It said they then wanted to sell the boys in Fujian province for a total of $1,800.