By Annie Freeda Cruez
KUALA LUMPUR: Washington is encouraged by Malaysia's energetic efforts to address human trafficking.
US Ambassador to Malaysia James R. Keith said the three main areas of focus should be sex trade, refugees and labour.
"The ministry managing women and families is leading the efforts in Malaysia to deal with those who victimise women. I think Malaysia is doing a great deal to educate the public, raid those sites where women are being victimised, and repatriate the women after separating them from criminals and sheltering them before they are sent home," he said.
He added there was always more that can be done and it was mainly a matter of generating sufficient resources. With regard to refugees being trafficked, he applauded the efforts taken by the attorney-general and the police and their message that trafficking will not be tolerated.
"There are larger issues with regard to refugees that make them potentially vulnerable. For the long term, I hope Malaysia can consider signing the UN's Convention on Refugees, which provides the international standards," said Keith.
As for the labour issue which he said was the most complicated, he said every country in the world had sensitive domestic issues surrounding immigration and migration. Malaysia was no different.
"We want to help and will continue to find ways to cooperate with Malaysia in fighting trafficking. The key thing to remember is that there are people out there -- men, women, and children -- who are victims and they need help," he added.
From a strictly humanitarian point of view, he said, everyone needed to be aware of what was happening around the world with regard to human trafficking, which was essentially a modern form of slavery.
"It is terrible to see the victims but once you do, you'll be committed to helping them. I am encouraged by the strong efforts the Malaysian government is taking to educate its citizens about this problem and the legal action to be taken against those who would take advantage of men, women and children.
"Malaysia has a strong anti-trafficking law and we want to do all we can to help Malaysia implement that law with vigour," he added.
On how the US can help Malaysia in international issues such as human trafficking and piracy, Keith said: "You raise two important policy issues that are being addressed by not only the US and Malaysia but also others in the UN and other relevant organisations.
"The key to resolving challenges to the international system like piracy and trafficking in human beings is coordination and cooperation between and among countries."
He said he was very encouraged by the two countries' good working relationship on both issues. - NST.