New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burma is among the 13 countries that fail to meet US minimum standards in fighting the crime of human trafficking, according to the US State Department in its 10th annual trafficking in persons report.
The report released on Monday reviewed global efforts to stop the trade in people and sexual slavery and listed 13 countries, including Iran, North Korea, Burma and Cuba, which were likely to be punished with US sanctions, it said.
|What is human trafficking?|
United Nations definition outlined by the Palermo Protocol 2000 is:
United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines “severe forms of trafficking” as:
A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.
Source: US State Department
The United States enforcement definitions prevented Burma’s removal from the list after increases in recorded cases of forced labour, prostitution and debt bondage.
“Burma is a source country for men, women, and children who are subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labour and for women and children in forced prostitution in other countries,” it said. “Burmese children are subjected to forced labour as hawkers and beggars in Thailand. Many men, women, and children who migrate abroad for work in Thailand, Malaysia, China, Bangladesh, India, and South Korea are trafficked into conditions of forced or bonded labour or commercial sexual exploitation.”
The report points to the Burmese junta’s mismanagement of a country with such a rich wealth of natural and human resources.
“Economic conditions within the country led to increased legal and illegal migration of Burmese regionally and to destinations as far as the Middle East. Men are subjected to forced labour in the fishing and construction industries abroad,” it said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the release of the report on Monday said that “the survey is not about simply giving the task to NGOs to solve the problem; it won’t work pointing or blaming, it is everyone’s responsibility, all of us have to speak out and act forcefully”.
More than 177 countries are analysed for the report, based on the extent of their governments’ actions to combat human trafficking, categorising them as “Tier 1”, “Tier 2”, “Tier 2 Watch List” and “Tier 3” (see fact box). Tier 3 countries are those that have failed to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking as set out in Section 108 of the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Thirteen are listed under Tier 3, four less than in last year’s report, while 11 remained; they are: Burma, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Kuwait, Mauritania, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Classification of nations, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 report
|Tier 1 Full compliance with the minimum standards of the TVPA
Tier 2 Significant efforts to comply with the TVPA
Tier 2 Watch List (do not fully comply with the TVPA but
are making significant efforts to comply AND:
a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;
b) there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking from the previous year, including increased investigations, prosecution and convictions of trafficking crimes, increased assistance to victims and decreasing evidence of complicity in severe forms of trafficking by government officials; or,
c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year.
Tier 3 (No efforts to comply with the TVPA)
|Source: US State Department|
“The military engages in the unlawful conscription of child soldiers, and continues to be the main perpetrator of forced labour inside Burma,” the report said in its section on Burma. “The direct government and military use of forced or compulsory labour remains a widespread and serious problem, particularly targeting members of ethnic minority groups.
“Military and civilian officials systematically used men, women and children for forced labour for the development of infrastructure and state-run agricultural and commercial ventures, as well as forced portering for the military,” the report said.
Duean Wonsa a project manager with the Anti-Trafficking Co-ordination Unit Northern Thailand (Trafcord) also blamed the junta for Burma’s lack of progress.
“There are overlapping reasons behind the high intensity of human trafficking in Burma, [but] it is mainly the failure of the Burmese dictatorship to provide protection to its nationalities, and the suppression of ethnic minorities [that is at fault],” she said.
She added that other reasons behind high human-trafficking rates in Burma – such as poverty, lack of education and general life skills, lack of information on safe migration and the increase of violence against women and children – “combine to make Burma a prime target for international criminal traffickers”.
A large proportion of those trafficked to neighbouring countries by couriers promising better work were from Burmese ethnic minorities.
NGO project manager, Duean, corroborated the point. “Families are tricked by traffickers, saying that their daughters or sons will have a respectable job in Thailand for example,” she said. “The families are offered money to make them believe, later they were brought and sold, and are forced to work in the sex trade.”
“Burmese workers rank the highest in numbers of human-trafficking victims in Thailand, and more than half of the population we serve originates from Burma,” Duean said. “The remainder are from Thailand, Laos and China, in that order.”
The US also rated the Burmese junta low in its sub-section on prosecution, revealing that the junta’s reporting to observers rarely matched reality, was unjust and that often those who reported cases of forced labour were themselves prosecuted.
“There was only one reported criminal prosecution of a member of the Burma Army for his role in child soldier cases. [Meanwhile], the government continued to incarcerate six individuals who reported forced labour cases involving the regime to the ILO or were otherwise active in working with the ILO on forced labour issues,” the report said, referring to the UN’s International Labour Organisation.
The report also said it was common practice for police to hamper investigations into people with official connections. It further cited a lack of transparency, included under-reporting of abuses and denial of access to public records or court proceedings by independent observers.
“Police can be expected to self-limit investigations when well-connected individuals are involved in forced labour cases,” it said. “Although the government reported four officials prosecuted for involvement in human trafficking in 2009, the government did not release any details of the cases.”
Global human trafficking in figures
|Adults and children in forced labour, bonded labour and forced prostitution around the world: 12.3 million
Successful trafficking prosecutions last year: 4,166
Successful prosecutions related to forced labour: 335
Victims identified: 49,105
Ratio of convicted offenders to victims identified, as a percentage: 8.5
Ratio of victims identified to estimated victims, as a percentage: 0.4
Countries that have yet to convict a trafficker under laws in compliance with the Palermo Protocols: 62
Nations without laws, policies or regulations to stop victim deportation: 104
Prevalence of trafficking victims in the world: 1.8 per 1,000 inhabitants
Prevalence in Asia and the Pacific region: 3 per 1,000 inhabitants
|Source: US State Department|
“Ninety-three cases were submitted to the Burmese government for action, an increase from 64 cases in 2008; 54 cases remain open and are awaiting a response from the government,” it said. “Despite a report of a child labour case involving as many as 100 children on an agricultural plantation near Rangoon, the regime did not report any efforts to investigate the allegation.”
The report, further quoting ILO figures, said many victims of forced labour were themselves prosecuted if they had complained about officials.
“Seventeen complainants and their associates in a series of forced labour cases involving 328 farmers in Magway Division were prosecuted and jailed by local authorities for their role in reporting forced labour perpetrated by local government officials,” it said. “Burmese courts later released 13 of the individuals, but four of the complainants remain in prison.”
It added that the national military government failed to act against such abuses.
“The central government did not intervene with local authorities to stop the politically motivated harassment, including lengthy interrogations, of the forced labour complainants,” it said. “Such unaccountable harassment and punishment discouraged additional forced labour complaints.”
On the other hand the Obama administration praised Malaysia and Taiwan for improving efforts to stop sexual and forced-labour exploitation of women and children. The countries rank in Tier 1, up from Tier-2.
The US ambassador for human trafficking issues, Luis CdeBaca, said Taiwan had for example improved in its efforts by allowing victims of trafficking to work while their cases were being investigated.
Malaysia earned its spot, according to the report, with statistics released by Malaysia’s Home Ministry that showed at least 56 victims of trafficking from Burma, including some underage children, had been rescued from slavery by Malaysian authorities since February 2008. The government had granted 292 protection orders to protect victims from February 2008 until March this year.