Human Trafficking Still a Serious Problem, Says Task Force

By Lawi Weng 20 December 2012

RANGOON — Burma’s new quasi-civilian government has vowed to improve its record on tackling human trafficking, but still has a long way to go until it can remove Burma’s name from the list of countries on the US Person Trafficking Report, according to the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT).

Speaking at a press conference at Traders Hotel in Rangoon on Thursday, Burmese police chief Yam Len Mun, who is also the secretary of the COMMIT Task Force, noted that Burma has already moved from tier three to tier two in the report, meaning that it has seen some improvement under the current government.

“We should be grateful to the government, but it is still not good enough, as we are still at tier two,” he said, adding that the first priority for next year should be to educate workers in every factory in the country about the dangers of human trafficking.

Others measures, to be taken with the cooperation of the United Nations and Japan, include setting up telephone hotlines in border towns through which many Burmese workers are trafficked to Thailand, China and other countries. There are also plans to set up rehabilitation camps for trafficked workers who have been rescued.

“These victims are poor, and that is why they had to go other countries. But their lives became even worse after they were trafficked, so we need international assistance to help them settle into new lives after we rescue them,” said the police chief.

He said that Burma had handled 250 cases of human trafficking over the past year, of which 146 involved authorities from other countries who had handed the victims over to their Burmese counterparts.

Currently, according to Yam Len Mun, there are 95 cases of human trafficking going through Burma’s courts, with 264 accused human traffickers facing prosecution. The number of victims involved in such cases has fallen by 30 percent since last year, to 197, he added.

Of Burma’s 330 townships, human trafficking has been reported in only 42, said Yam Len Mun. The largest number of cases of human trafficking have involved women sold into brothels, he said.

Under Burmese law, human trafficking carries sentences of 20 years to life in prison.