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Burma

The Situation
Burma is a source and transit country for human trafficking.  Burma’s military regime is the main perpetrator of human trafficking abuses both within the country and abroad.   

Source
Burmese men, women, and children are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation in Thailand, the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia, Bangladesh, South Korea, Macau, and Pakistan.1 Children are trafficked to Thailand for forced labor as beggars.  Reports have indicated a trend in trafficking women and girls as young as fourteen to China to work in the sex industry or to become brides to Chinese men.2 While there are no reliable estimates on the number of Burmese who are trafficked, most observers believe that the number of victims is at least several thousand per year.3

Transit
Burma is a transit country for Bangladeshi victims trafficked through Burma destined for Malaysia, and Chinese victims trafficked through Burma to Thailand.4

Internal Trafficking
Burma has internal trafficking from rural areas to border areas with China and Thailand, particularly areas with trucking routes, mining areas, military bases, fishing villages, and military camps.5 Children are trafficked internally for forced labor in agriculture and small-scale industries or as child soldiers. Trafficking within Burma continues to be a significant problem primarily due to the military’s unlawful conscription of child soldiers and the fact that it is the main perpetrator of forced labor inside the country.6

Military and civilian officials have for years systematically used men, women, and children for forced labor for the development of infrastructure and state-run agricultural and commercial ventures, as well as forced portering for the military.  Some observers estimate that thousands of children, including boys as young as 11 years old, are forced to serve in Burma’s national army as desertions of men in the army continue.  Government authorities use various forms of coercion, including threats of financial and physical harm, to compel households to provide forced labor. Those living in areas with the highest military presence, including remote border areas populated by ethnic groups, are most at risk for forced labor. The regime’s treatment of ethnic minorities makes them particularly vulnerable to trafficking.7

One study found an acute problem in Chin State where 92 percent of over 600 households surveyed reported at least one episode of a household member subjected to forced labor, including being forced to porter military supplies, sweep for landmines, or build roads, with the Burmese military imposing two-thirds of these forced labor demands.8   

Causes
There are many causes of human trafficking in Burma. The military regime’s climate of impunity, gross economic mismanagement, human rights abuses, and its continued widespread use of forced and child labor, as well as recruitment of child soldiers, remain the top causal factors for Burma’s significant trafficking problem, both within the country and abroad.9 

The lack of job opportunities and the presence of higher incomes in neighboring countries have significantly contributed to the out-migration of hundreds of thousands of people.10  Such a situation has created an opportunity for traffickers to lure the victims to other countries with false promises.

In an effort to address the problem of trafficking in persons, the government restricts international travel for women, particularly those less than 25 years of age.11 This could drive some seeking to leave the country into the hands of “travel facilitators,” who may have ties with traffickers. Further, due to the authorities’ refusal to recognize members of certain ethnic minority groups (including the Rohingyas) as citizens and provide them with identification documentation, these groups are more vulnerable to trafficking.12

The Burmese Government
Although the Government of Burma took some steps to address cross-border sex trafficking, it has not demonstrated serious and sustained efforts to clamp down on military and local authorities who are themselves engaging in forced labor and the conscription of child soldiers.13 As such, the Burmese Government was placed in Tier 3 in the 2011 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and not making significant efforts to do so.

Furthermore, the Burmese Government was ranked as the #1 offender on the U.S. Government’s 2011 Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) list in the 2011 TIP Report. CSPA, which was signed into law on December 23, 2008, requires publication in the annual TIP Report a list of foreign governments identified during the previous year as having governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers. Governments identified on the list are subject to restrictions, in the following fiscal year, on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment.14

Burma’s 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law criminalizes sex and labor trafficking in Burma.15 The penalty for trafficking women, children, and youth is 10 years to life; the penalty for trafficking men is five to 10 years; the penalty for fraud used to traffic is three to seven years; the penalty for trafficking victims for pornography is five to 10 years; the penalty for trafficking with an organized criminal group is 10 years to life; the penalty for serious crime involving trafficking is 10 years to life or death; and the penalty for public officials who accept money related to an investigation of trafficking is three to seven years. All penalties also include the option of a fine.16

Prosecution
While the Government of Burma reported continued law enforcement efforts against trafficking of women and girls across international borders during the year, including for forced marriages, it failed to demonstrate apparent progress in investigating, prosecuting, and convicting perpetrators of internal trafficking – particularly the military’s forced conscription of soldiers, including child soldiers, and use of forced labor.17

The Burmese Government has taken steps to increase its arrests, prosecutions, convictions for cross border trafficking.  In 2010, the Burmese regime reported that its police investigated 173 cases of human trafficking and convicted 234 traffickers with sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment. The ILO reported that it submitted 354 cases to the Burmese Government for action in 2010 and that the regime resolved 161 cases; 159 cases are pending resolution and 34 cases were closed with an “unsatisfactory outcome” according to the ILO.18

The Burmese Government has taken little to no law enforcement action against the military for forced labor or use of child soldiers. In fact, the government continued to incarcerate four individuals who reported forced labor cases involving the regime to the ILO or who were otherwise active in working with the ILO on forced labor issues.19

Protection
The Burmese Government offers limited services to protect trafficking victims, offering even fewer  services to victims of internal trafficking. According to Burmese authorities, the government repatriated 348 trafficking victims in 2010, including 183 from China and 134 from Thailand.20

The government required a mandatory minimum of two weeks in rehabilitation for victims of external trafficking, in eight vocational training centers and one shelter.  It was found that victims were not free to leave and received limited training, legal and rehabilitation services and substandard medical care.21 However, according to the US Department of State, the Burmese Government has issued a decree to end these practices.22

Prevention
The Government of Burma continued limited efforts to prevent international trafficking in persons over the last year, but made few discernible efforts to prevent the more prevalent internal trafficking.  The Burmese Government has collaborated with non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations on a variety of prevention programs, including poverty alleviation, vocational skill training, and micro-credit loans.  The Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation and National Committee for Women's Affairs conduct educational sessions for women around the country that included information about the risks of trafficking.  The government continued awareness campaigns through the use of billboards at bus and railway stations, flyers, and public talks during the reporting period. The Burmese Government also reported forming a new anti-trafficking unit in Chin Shwe Haw during the year. Further, the UN reported increased access to military recruitment centers during the year, and conducted training courses for military and civilian officials.23

International Cooperation
The Burmese Government cooperates with UN agencies and INGOs active in the counter-trafficking sector, including through its National Plan of Action on human trafficking, which is in line with its commitment under the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking MoU (COMMIT MoU), which brings together the six Mekong countries in the fight against human trafficking.24 

Recommendations

  • Cease the use of forced labor by civilian and especially military entities;
  • Cease the unlawful conscription of children into the military and ethnic armed groups;
  • Increase efforts to investigate and sanction;
  • End the involuntary detention of adult victims of trafficking in government shelters (which the government did do in 2011); 
  • Release and drop the charges against the four citizens imprisoned for their role in reporting cases of forced labor to international organizations;
  • Increase partnerships with local and international NGOs to improve victim identification and protection efforts, including victim shelters;
  • Continue improving UN access to inspect recruitment centers, training centers, and military camps;
  • Develop and implement formal victim identification and referral procedures; and
  • Focus more attention on the internal trafficking of victims.25

____________________ 
1 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
2 UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Myanmar (last update 2009); Remarks to the Media at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma by Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, January 11, 2012
3 UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Myanmar (last update 2009)
4 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
5 UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Myanmar (last update 2009)
6 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report; 2010 US Department of State Human Rights Report
7 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report; Remarks to the Media at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma by Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, January 11, 2012; 2010 US Department of State Human Rights Report 
8 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
9 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
10 UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Myanmar (last update 2009)
11 2010 US Department of State Human Rights Report 
12 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
13 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report, Topics of Special Interest: Child Soldiers
14 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
15 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
16 2009 US Department of State Human Rights Report 
17 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
18 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
19 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
20 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
21 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
22 Remarks to the Media at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma by Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, January 11, 2012
23 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
24 UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Myanmar (last update 2009)
25 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report; Remarks to the Media at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma by Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, January 11, 2012 
 


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