Poor villagers still falling victim to human traffickers Human traffickers in Vietnam have evaded initiatives to thwart their activities and the slave trade is continuing to flourish, according to anti-trafficking groups. Several trafficking rings have been smashed and awareness-raising campaigns are targeting the poor villages that are home to most of the unwary victims, usually women under 25 and children. Just last year an unprecedented joint campaign between Vietnam and China was launched to crack down on the flow of thousands across the border between the two countries, considered a global hot spots for human trafficking. But observers say such efforts are up against even stronger forces driving the trade: increasing mobility, economic growth that is largely bypassing rural areas and gender imbalances. 'Globally, human trafficking is on the increase, and while there is lack of clear data, concerned agencies believe it is also still on the rise in Vietnam,' said a spokesman at the Hanoi branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Hanoi authorities announced this month that about 9,000 Vietnamese have been trafficked this year, mostly to China. But foreign organisations call such estimates 'abysmally low'. Traffickers, often Vietnamese nationals working in tandem with Chinese counterparts, use a variety of means to corral their victims. Promises of good jobs and rich husbands are often enticing to poor, young Vietnamese women. In other cases they are simply drugged and thrown in a truck. Once they reach their destination they face various abuses - getting sold into prostitution among the most common. 'The problem is complicated, and the common view is that the main reason for it is poverty,' said Nguyen Manh Te, a senior official with Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security. The Hanoi office of the International Organisation for Migration, one of several foreign agencies supporting Vietnam's anti-trafficking programmes, says improved mobility is another factor. By now there is road access to all but the most remote, poverty-plagued villages in Vietnam, and major highways are in the works to link up the entire region. 'Abuse and mobility go hand in hand,' said Andy Bruce, mission chief for the IOM in Vietnam. Mr Bruce said the Vietnamese government had begun 'taking the problem much more seriously' in the past year, with a national action plan and co-operative approach with foreign organisations. But all the trafficker arrests and pamphlet distributions could hope to do was limit the scale of the problem. 'There's talk of eradication and elimination, but I don't think so,' he said.