| James Kon |
WITH the fast approaching, full implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015, Brunei and its Asean counterparts are currently working towards the Asean Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, which will list the various obligations in dealing with human trafficking.
The latest developments on Asean initiatives to combat human trafficking were yesterday revealed by Christopher Ng, Counsel and Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Special Duties Unit of Criminal Justice Division, during a question and answer session following a briefing on ‘Trafficking In Persons’ at the Philippines Chancery.
“Continued negotiations and discussions are ongoing and a meeting will be held in two weeks. The local authority will be guided by the signing of the Asean Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, which will be done later on. If the convention insists that Brunei provides greater protection to victims of trafficking, as an obligation as a member nation of Asean, we will do so,” he said.
One of the issues raised was that of domestic helpers having their salaries deducted (for several months) to pay off their fares after arriving in Brunei, to which Christopher Ng replied, “We have received some complaints about the issues. However, a number of the complainants have said that they willingly entered into the arrangement in order to come and work in the country. In this scenario, it will be hard to bring the matter to court. We also need to assess it on a case-by-case basis.”
If wages are withheld for a long time and the person is at a disadvantage and exploited, he/she can report to the police for further investigation, Christopher Ng explained.
With regard to instances of employers withholding the passport and restricting the movements of employees, he urged victims to report the matter to the embassy or the police, thereby allowing them to investigate the matter to get a clearer picture.
Philippines Ambassador Nestor Z Ochoa suggested that more awareness needed to be raised in the local media, to which Christopher Ng added, “The ad hoc committee on Trafficking in Persons was established to raise awareness, and that this can be taken into consideration.”