Trafficking in Myanmar peaks in 2014

Trafficking in Myanmar peaks in 2014
Rohingya people from Myanmar, who were rescued from human traffickers, react from inside a communal cell at Songkhla Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) where they are kept near Thailand's border with Malaysia February 12, 2014.

The number of human trafficking victims in Myanmar reached 309 between January and August last year, which is the highest rate since the current government took office, according to the anti-human trafficking police force.

There were 306 trafficking victims in 2010; 265 in 2011; 261 in 2012; 256 in 2013; and 309 in 2014. Most of the victims were trafficked to China and Thailand. The largest number of cases in 2014 were linked to China.

Forced marriage was the top cause of human trafficking, with 72 cases, while there were 29 forced labour cases and 22 cases of women being forced into prostitution.

Among the 309 victims last year, 121 were men and 188 were women. There were a total of 124 human trafficking operations recorded in 2014.

Anti-human trafficking police were able to rescue 99 men and 142 women from traffickers. They arrested 367 culprits, of whom 107 are male and 138 are female. The other 117 culprits remain at large.

"Victims are trafficked mostly to China. Most cases are forced marriages. Victims fall into this trap due to low employment opportunities, debt problems, low education standards and other incentives. I would like to urge girls not to endanger themselves to get quick money," said an officer from the anti-human trafficking police force on January 6.

In 2014, the Lashio Police Station filed a lawsuit against a woman who sold her married daughter to a Chinese man, in accordance with Section 24 of the Anti-human Trafficking Law.

In 2014, the largest number of trafficking cases in Myanmar took place in Shan State, totaling 56 cases, followed by Yangon Region with 14 cases; Mandalay Region with 10 cases; Ayeyawaddy Region with nine cases; Taninthayi and Bago regions with seven each; Kachin State with six cases; Mon State with four cases; Nay Pyi Taw and Magway regions with three each; Sagaing Region and Kayin State with two each; and Rakhine State with one. No cases were recorded in other regions and states.

Between 2010 and 2014, 1,047 of 1,813 new trafficking suspects were apprehended.

The number was at a record high though the misery happening to Muslim Rohingya fleeing the country is not accounted for.

Calling themselves Rohingya, tens of thousands have fled Myanmar where they are considered Bengalis or those which have migrated from Bangladesh. Some activists attributed the flee to anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, is now on tour in Myanmar.

Hundreds of protesters greeted her on her arrival to the airport in Sittwe, Rakhine State where a large number of Muslim Rohingya reside.

Neighbouring Thailand is a major transit country. Smuggling of Rohingya has continued unabated. In Nakhon Si Thammarat on Sunday, a five-vehicle convoy was intercepted by officials, who arrested two Thai drivers while three others fled.

A Rohingya woman was found dead in one of the vehicles, while some 98 other migrants, including 46 children were detained. The woman, aged about 20, died of extreme exhaustion, while survivors suffered starvation after two days of travel without food and water.

Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai on Monday insisted that Thailand has improved its practices towards anti-human trafficking campaigns over the past six months and will speed up its long-term efforts in fighting the abuse.

This is done before the US State Department would complete the Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 in March.

He said the government had made suppression of human trafficking a top priority, while imposing stricter enforcement of relevant laws to effectively tackle human trafficking. The PM chairs a government committee to address the issue and run operations.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission was also awarded an extra Bt300 million (S$12.2 million) for additional tasks to investigate into wrongdoing by corrupt officials aiding or benefitting from smuggling of migrant workers.

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