S'porean trains local police to identify victims of human trafficking

S'porean trains local police to identify victims of human trafficking
Ms Wang Weihui, operations director of Hagar Cambodia, is back home to train police officers to spot those in need of help.

For the last three years, Singaporean Wang Weihui has been helping victims of sex trafficking or labour exploitation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The operations director at Hagar Cambodia manages three teams providing services to more than 350 exploited women and children in 24 provinces.

Armed with that experience, the 31-year-old is now back in Singapore and training the police here to identify victims of human trafficking.

This is to prepare the officers for the passing of the Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill, which was tabled in Parliament on Oct 7.

During a press conference at police headquarters at New Phoenix Park, Irrawaddy Road, yesterday, Ms Wang said the officers are taught not to make "general assumptions" when confronted with a migrant worker who could be a victim of human trafficking.

The three-month training session will end in December this year.

"The goal here is...to spot the red flags and identify those in need of help," said the social work graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, who has seven years of social work experience.

She is now part of Hagar International, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which strives to help women and children who suffer extreme human rights abuse.

She has also worked with trafficking victims in the US.

Hagar Singapore's executive director, Mr Michael Chiam, 43, said the NGO was hired by the Singapore Police Force to train up to 3,800 frontline police officers from the six divisions across Singapore.

The organisation was chosen because of its experience in dealing with similar victims in Afghanistan, Vietnam and Cambodia. Victims of trafficking, who are under the care of a shelter, will be allowed to work under a temporary work scheme, the police and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told reporters yesterday.

Those who do not fulfil employment conditions are allowed to work in the shelter. These victims will also undergo counselling while their cases are pending, said Superintendent Lawrence Eng, who heads the specialised crime branch of the Criminal Investigation Department.


While local activist group StopTraffickingSG said more could be done to protect and help victims, director of MOM's Joint Ops Directorate, Mr Kandhavel Periyasamy, said the focus has to be on rehabilitation.

He explained: "Work is a means to rehabilitate them and to integrate them into society.

"We try to create opportunities for them to find work."

He added that if the victims do not want to work for whatever reasons, they respect that.

Superintendent Eng said he expects more victims to reveal themselves when the Bill, which is expected to be read a second time in Parliament next week, is passed.

Under the Bill, the penalties for first-time offenders convicted of Trafficking In Persons are up to 10 years' jail and a fine of up to $100,000, and discretionary caning of up to six strokes.

Subsequent offenders face up to 15 years in jail, a fine up to $150,000 and mandatory caning of up to nine strokes.

This article was first published on Oct 31, 2014.
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