Monday, December 9, 1996

U.N. campaign to end
children’s exploitation

IN South and Southeast Asia, and in other poor countries, children are being cruelly exploited in sweatshops and brothels. Although poverty is at the root of the problem, economic growth in some Asian countries is also a factor, providing a larger market for children's services.

The United Nations' labor agency, the International Labor Organization, has launched a campaign to draft and ratify an Asian regional agreement against trafficking in child labor, including slavery, prostitution and bonded labor. The ILO hopes to have a convention drafted by 1998 and ratified in 1999. Its aim would be to involve governments on a regional basis to work together to improve enforcement of child labor laws.

The labor agency says thousands of girls from Bangladesh and Nepal are sold into brothels in India every year. Children from Burma, Cambodia, China and Laos supply brothels and legitimate businesses in rapidly industrializing Thailand, such as construction projects, restaurants and fishing boats.

Guy Thijs, an ILO coordinator in Asia, said at a news conference in Bangkok there is evidence that child-trafficking problems are increasing. "The prosperity and economic development that Asia has been going through has, ironically, been a contributing factor," he observed.

Middlemen can be found in villages around Southeast Asia, supplying child-trafficking networks, the ILO official said. They sometimes ask a teacher about certain children, then negotiate a cash payment with the parents.

Mobility between countries has helped, as has the availability of jobs and money in countries such as Thailand that are surrounded by poorer neighbors.

Prosperity is a sham if it is achieved through the exploitation of children. Asian governments must face up to the need to stop this abominable practice. The ILO can help, but it cannot succeed without the support of the governments concerned.

North Korean exodus

SOUTH Korea has announced plans to build a camp next year to cope with defectors from the North in anticipation of a stream of refugees fleeing worsening conditions in the communist state. The camp would hold up to 500 people and could be the first of many. The announcement indicates the seriousness with which Seoul views the deterioration of the communists' grip on power.

It is imperative that the United States continues to assure South Korea of its full support in dealing with developments with its volatile neighbor.

Talk-show trash

WHAT will happen next on those unbelievable TV talk shows? The biggest controversy involved gabfest host Jenny Jones, after one of her guests shot a gay admirer to death. Last week, on the same day that the defendant was sentenced, another 20-year-old man was arrested for statutory rape after admitting to Sally Jessy Raphael that he had fathered the baby of a 14-year-old girl. The talk-show trash just keeps on coming, and will continue to as long as there is an audience for it.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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