In the Mekong region, unequal economic development has caused the unprecedented movement of people within and across national borders – a phenomenon only exacerbated by COVID-19. With the unemployed desperate to find jobs, this has expanded the reach of human traffickers as they prey on those who are willing to seek high-risk employment options.
Domestic violence has also been on the rise worldwide during the pandemic, especially in the Mekong region, where there's been a 66% increase in domestic violence in Thailand alone. These worsening conditions contribute to region-wide vulnerabilities to human trafficking, as the behavioral patterns exhibited by abusers often coincide with those of traffickers. This can lead to more women and girls falling prey to sex trafficking and may even increase incidents of intimate partner trafficking.
As a firm, we are committed to making a positive difference for the communities we operate in. So I’m proud we were able to work with – on a pro bono basis – the DT Institute, Charles Sturt University, DT Global and Global Alms to produce a report focused on a review of regional policies, operational plans, and capacity to respond effectively to Transnational Organised Crime (TOC) against women and children in the Mekong region, in Asia.
Almost a dozen of our people – coordinating across several different offices in both Asia and the US – worked on the report, the goal of which is to assist in implementing broader relief policies and initiatives – such as the Mekong-Australia Program on Transnational Crime – and to highlight the quickly shifting realities faced by the most vulnerable communities during the pandemic.
Women and children in the Mekong region, especially those who suffer from limited means, have long been among the most vulnerable to TOC. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic further sidelined their already unmet needs to access legal services and policy relief. At the same time, the pandemic also widened the gap of information between this particularly vulnerable population and governments/organisations who still remain committed to addressing the serious threats of TOC in the Mekong region.
We hope that the report will be a useful policy document that assists and enables advisors/leaders in the field to gain an in-depth overview of the TOC challenges in the Mekong region and implement relief policies and initiatives to help the most vulnerable individuals among us.
The Report examines how the direct and indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the vulnerability of human trafficking, focusing on increased family and domestic violence, increased unemployment, and under-engaged youth.