YANGON — Myanmar was upgraded from a list of countries with the worst human trafficking records on Tuesday to a watch list of nations that are trying to meet US minimum standards.
The US State Department removed Myanmar from the blacklist of the US annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report to the Tier 2 watch list of countries making significant efforts to combat human trafficking and forced labor.
On the watch list, Myanmar joins Laos and Thailand, which urged US officials on Wednesday to visit the country and see first hand its efforts to stop human trafficking.
Cambodia and Vietnam remained in Tier 2, meaning the countries do not full comply with US minimum standards but were making “significant efforts” to do so. Malaysia was promoted to Tier 2.
China, however, was downgraded to Tier 3, a rating that can trigger sanctions limiting access to US and international aid, though US presidents frequently waive such action.
For the previous three years, China was on the Tier 2 watch list. China was last in the lowest ranking, or Tier 3, in 2013.
The report described Myanmar’s “continued progress” to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers, but it said the country does not do enough to penalize military officials who have engaged in such recruitment.
It recognized an increase in personnel dedicated to anti-trafficking law enforcement units, and the first trafficking prosecutions of government officials since the enactment of the 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law.
People from predominantly ethnic minority areas—including the estimated 103,000 persons displaced by conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states and the estimated 120,000 displaced persons in Rakhine State— are at increased risk of trafficking, according to the report.
“Rohingya individuals are particularly vulnerable to labor trafficking in Rakhine State, including forced labor perpetrated by government authorities,” it read, noting that the estimated 70,000 Rohingya who fled an army crackdown in Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh in 2016 and early 2017 are particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
The State Department also removed Iraq and Myanmar from a list of countries that recruit and use child soldiers.