Addressing Modern Slavery in the ASEAN Region

Fact Sheet
November 20, 2012


With its partners at home and around the world, the United States is committed to enhancing efforts to end human trafficking, a crime President Obama has called a “debasement of our common humanity…which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.”

Together with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and in partnership with civil society, the United States looks forward to enhancing regional efforts to protect and rehabilitate trafficking survivors, bring traffickers to justice, and raise awareness so that trafficking can be stopped before it starts.

During the ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting, held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on November 19, 2012, President Obama and the 10 ASEAN heads of state agreed to improve cooperative efforts to tackle modern slavery, including the forced labor and sex trafficking of women, men, and children. The United States agreed to work with ASEAN members to harmonize legal frameworks in defining and prohibiting human trafficking, increase cross-border joint investigation, and build capacity for a standardized response to trafficking victims’ needs. To advance these objectives, the United States pledged $500,000 in technical assistance and training for ASEAN and its member states.

This new commitment complements these existing U.S. Government programs in the region:

  • In Cambodia, the United States works with the Royal Government of Cambodia and civil society to provide psychological support and other services to address trauma and other mental health needs of victims of sex and labor trafficking. Assistance also provides economic support to trafficking victims through training and job placement.
  • In the Philippines, the United States helps build the capacity of frontline service providers and funds victim support activities, which makes prosecution efforts more effective and increases conviction rates. The programs support awareness campaigns as well as comprehensive and integrated protective services to trafficking victims to ensure they gain new life skills and reduce their vulnerability to re-trafficking. In addition, the Partnership for Growth between the Philippines and the U.S. will promote inclusive growth that is focused on generating meaningful employment and income opportunities for the traditionally neglected segments of the population—those most vulnerable to human trafficking.
  • In Vietnam, U.S.-funded efforts have led to valuable research on victim protection and prosecution procedures, and key pilot projects have improved shelter conditions and services provided to victims.

In an anti-trafficking prevention effort across the region, USAID funds MTV-EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking), a global multimedia campaign. In Southeast Asia, the program raises awareness of trafficking among youth and vulnerable populations to prevent human trafficking in Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, and will open in Burma in December through a public concert held in Rangoon’s People’s Square. Since 2006, MTV EXIT has produced 30 major concert events, 76 television and online programs, and dozens of outreach activities and has engaged over 700,000 regional youth. Beginning in late November, ASEAN and MTV Exit will host a Youth Session to provide training in social media to combat TIP and build regional networks to further enhance awareness. Read more at

BURMA: This September, President Obama made a public commitment to enhancing the United States’ partnership with Burma on trafficking in persons, as part of our continued support for Burma’s ongoing reforms.

“Last week I was proud to welcome to the Oval Office not only a great champion of democracy but a fierce advocate against the use of forced labor and child soldiers—Aung San Suu Kyi. And as part of our engagement, we’ll encourage Burma to keep taking steps to reform—because nations must speak with one voice: Our people and our children are not for sale.”

To honor this commitment, and in light of the progress made by the Government of Burma on combating trafficking in persons over the last two years, this week the Governments of the United States and Burma announced a new joint plan to counter trafficking in persons, which will include the establishment of a formal, senior-level dialogue. The United States is committed to enhancing Burma’s progress through the sharing of technical knowledge and best practices, heralding a new era of U.S.-Burma cooperation.

Areas of cooperation under the joint action plan include:

  • Identifying trafficking offenses;
  • Investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenders;
  • Providing victims with access to services in line with existing international guidelines; and
  • Preventing Burmese citizens from being subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor either within the country’s borders or abroad.