- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2011

‘NOTHING LESS THAN SLAVERY’

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines blamed corrupt officials for the continuation of the illegal sex trade and praised the Philippines government for fighting what he called the “evils of human trafficking.”

“Within this very city and all around the world, there are vulnerable women, men and even children who are being bought and sold every day by human traffickers to be exploited, often forced into slavery,” Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. told Filipino judges at a recent forum in Manila.

He applauded the judges’ sentencing improvements for sex criminals and called a 2003 Philippines law against sex smuggling “a model for other countries.”

A State Department report, however, ranks the Philippines among the countries with the most serious human-trafficking offenses.

“The government of the Philippines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the department said in 2010 report.

Much of the sex trafficking in the Philippines is associated with organized crime, both domestically and internationally. Smugglers have sold more than 150,000 Filipino women to Japan, where the sex trade is controlled by the Yakuza crime syndicate, according to news reports.

More than 375,000 women and girls have been forced into the sex trade in the Philippines, U.N. and other international agencies report.

Mr. Thomas condemned the human trafficking as “nothing less than slavery.”

“These victims place a powerful call for justice to all of us,” he said, “and those victims urgently need our help.”

‘VIOLENCE AND EXTORTION’

The long-dominant political party of autocratic President Robert Mugabe is promoting “unrestrained” violence against political opponents in Zimbabwe, the U.S. Embassy in Harare said this week.

The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) risks being seen as a party “committed to violence and intimidation unconstrained by the laws of the land,” unless it stops supporters from attacking dissidents critical of Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African nation since independence in 1980.

His political party, also founded in 1980, was originally known as ZANU. It adopted its current name after taking over the Zimbabwe African People’s Union eight years later.

ZANU-PF lost its absolute grip on power in 2008, when two opposition parties won the majority in parliament. Mr. Mugabe retained the position of president, and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), became prime minister in a power-sharing agreement.

Since then, however, ZANU-PF supporters, including thugs known as the Chipangano gang, have routinely beaten or intimidated their political opponents.

“The unrestrained show of violence and extortion along political lines around Harare by the ZANU-PF-allied Chipangano gang fosters an unacceptable environment of fear and intimidation that will only perpetuate violence and undermine the peace and stability which the police are sworn to protect,” the embassy said in a statement posted on its website (http://harare.usembassy.gov).

“The U.S. is concerned about persistent reports of harassment, targeting, and heavy-handed tactics used by police officers in arresting civil society activists — most recently leaders from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) on September 22 — and MDC leaders and supporters as they conduct civil demonstrations or peaceful political activities.”

The embassy warned ZANU-PF leaders that the party “if left unchallenged, actions such as these lend credence to public perceptions of ZANU-PF as a party committed to violence and intimidation unconstrained by the laws of the land.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide