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Powell Relays Story of Trafficking Victim
By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Khan was 11-years old when she was kidnapped from her home in the hill country of Laos. She was taken to an embroidery factory in Thailand. She and dozens of other children were made to work 14 hours a day for food and clothing. They received no wages.

"It's called slavery," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday in recounting Khan's fate as he released the State Department's annual report on human trafficking. He said the practice affects 600,000 to 800,000 persons each year.

"We're talking about women and girls as young as 6 years old trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation, men trafficked into forced labor, children trafficked as child soldiers," Powell said.

In trying to encourage governments to confront trafficking problems, the State Department holds out the possibility of sanctions against those which fall short.

On this year's list of offenders are Bangladesh, Burma, Cuba, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Guyana, North Korea (news - web sites), Sierra Leone, Sudan and Venezuela.

A presidential decision on sanctions will be made later this year based on whether progress is made in the interim.

Officials stressed that the U.S. goal is not sanctions but combatting trafficking. Last September, economic penalties were applied against Burma, Cuba and North Korea.

Powell, speaking to reporters, stood by a picture of a small boy from El Salvador with a frightened look. A trafficker attempted to abduct the boy to another country but was thwarted by airport authorities.

Powell said he wanted to discuss Khan's fate because citing solely statistics doesn't capture the human dimension. "They can freeze our imaginations," he said.

Khan fought back against her exploiters and suffered a beating as a result, Powell said.

"When she protested again," he added, "she was stuffed into a closet, where the factory owner's son poured industrial chemicals over her and disfigured her."

Thai authorities eventually rescued Khan and other victims at the factory, said John Miller, Powell's top aide for combatting trafficking.

Now 14, Khan is receiving an education, and has had plastic surgery to repair her scars, Miller said. The factory owner has been sent to prison.

Miller, a former Republican congressman from Washington state, said he met with Khan last October.

"She was able to smile and talk and laugh with me," he said in an interview. "I would have thought she would have been completely despondent."

The report released Monday analyzes the origin, transit or destination of victims of "severe forms of trafficking."

As a minimum standard, the United States believes that governments around the world "should prohibit trafficking in persons and punish acts of such trafficking."

The report covers every country where U.S. officials can establish that the number of trafficking victims exceeds 100.

The International Justice Mission, a private U.S. group that combats trafficking, says it worked with Cambodian police last year in the rescue of 37 girls and women the youngest of whom was 5 years old from a series of brothels. The operation led to the convictions of six people.

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All information is Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff