Australia launches $55M anti-trafficking effort for ASEAN

BANGKOK (AP) — Australia has launched a new 80 million Australian dollars ($55 million) program to help Southeast Asian nations combat human trafficking in the region, which is both a source and destination for those subjected to forced labor and the sex trade.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the 10-year program was an extension of Canberra's assistance to the region to tackle the menace in the last 15 years. She says Australia has helped trained more than 13,000 justice officials that helped bolster the legal system to fight human trafficking and ensure better protection for victims in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Payne said Thursday at the launch of the program with her ASEAN counterparts that deeper cooperation was required as the scale of the challenged remained "immense."