Police and Social Welfare Ministry to Collaborate in Anti-Trafficking Initiative

By Moe Myint 3 October 2016

RANGOON – In Monday’s Rangoon Division parliamentary session, it was announced that the police and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Rehabilitation would collaborate to accelerate child rights awareness in all regional townships to prevent human trafficking.

Rangoon’s Security and Border Affairs Minister Col Tin Aung Tun said pamphlets will be distributed and short films on the issue will be broadcast on state-run television channels. Additionally, he added, a specialized police unit has been formed to cope with trafficking. He urged parliamentarians not to hesitate in summoning the unit if they are interested in holding awareness projects in their constituencies.

National League for Democracy lawmakers Daw Kyi Pyar and U Zaw Min Aung raised questions about whether the Rangoon government had ideas for other projects to decrease human rights violations throughout the commercial capital.

Col Tin Aung Tun remarked that the practice of child labor was a familiar matter in Rangoon, and that investigating such incidents is difficult, because such problems happen within households, out of public view.

“The problem appears when it reaches a violent situation,” said Col Tin Aung Tun.

Regional lawmakers also pointed out how some abuse cases have been held up in court, even though charges may have been filed several years ago. Col. Tin Aung Tun explained that some cases are delayed as witnesses are sought out. He also admitted that delays can be attributed to the financial difficulties faced by victims and their families, who often cannot afford to attend court hearings.

The renewed focus on fighting human trafficking comes after local media exposed the case of two underage domestic workers who were forced to work in downtown Rangoon for five years with little or no pay; their hometown was a village only hours away, also in Rangoon Division. Further controversy arose when it was revealed that the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) encouraged relatives of the girls to accept cash compensation of US$4,000—divided between two families—over the pursuit of legal action.

Last week the Union’s Lower House approved an urgent proposal put forward by legislator U Htay Win Aung to dismiss members of the MNHRC for their failure to push for justice through adherence to legal statutes.

The Irrawaddy reached out to the MNHRC on Monday for comment on the anti-human trafficking initiative, but was told that no members were available for comment.

Col. Tin Aung Tun said that the Rangoon government is now charging the head of the family inculcated in the abuse of the domestic workers under eight legal statutes. Five other family members are being charged under seven statutes. He also said that police have launched another investigation into those police officials who failed to take timely action against the accused once the allegations of trafficking and enslavement came forward.

In 2015, the Rangoon government uncovered 17 cases of human trafficking. As of October 2016, 16 documented cases have occurred. Ages of the 33 victims are unknown, but they include 28 females and five males.