Burmese Facing Human Trafficking Charges in Malaysia

By Nyein Nyein 20 August 2014

The trial of three Burmese agents from a migrant workers’ employment agency who have been charged with trafficking 60 of their compatriots into Malaysia has been postponed, after the presiding judge told prosecutors that they had not gathered sufficient evidence against the accused.

The defendants appeared before a Kuala Lumpur district court on Tuesday, but the judge decided to move the trial to Friday of this week.

“They will have to appear for the trial on August 22,” according to Lin Maung Maung, the assistant to the secretaries of the Burmese Embassy in Malaysia, “because the lawyer of one of them said there is still a lack of evidence to proceed against his client.”

A total of 72 Burmese were detained at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July 8, after they were stopped by immigration authorities and accused of holding forged visa documents. Twelve of the 72 detained Burmese nationals did hold valid tourist visas.

Among the three agents, one also holds an invalid visa, Lin Maung Maung said.

“As far as I know, they [the alleged invalid visa holders] did not register at labor agencies [as foreign workers], but traveled on tourist visas.”

A Malaysian court sentenced 52 of the Burmese nationals to one year’s imprisonment under the country’s immigration law on Aug. 12. An elderly detainee and seven children who were among those stopped at the airport will not face charges due to their respective senior and juvenile statuses, but they are still being held at the Kuala Lumpur airport detention facility, together with the 12 Burmese holding valid tourist visas.

The Burmese Embassy in Malaysia said in a statement on Monday that it is providing assistance in the cases through both legal and diplomatic channels.

Lin Maung Maung said Burma’s ambassador to Malaysia had been in contact with the Malaysian Foreign Affairs and Home ministries, and immigration officials, for the releases of the 20 detainees not due to face trial.

“Those 12 will have to appear in court as witnesses. They can only return [to Burma] after the agents’ trial is finished,” he said. “We are advocating for their immediate release.”

He added that the embassy was also providing legal assistance in the appeals process by hiring lawyers for the 52 Burmese sentenced last week.