(13 September 2020)
Myanmar enacted the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law on13 September 2005. The day was marked as Myanmar Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day since 2013. This year marks the 8th Anniversary of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day of Myanmar.
In previous years, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day Celebration was held in Nay Pyi Taw and, Region and State level ceremonies were held under the auspices of the respective governments. This year, the Ceremonies of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day could not be held due to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but the respective States/Regions have conducted the public awareness-raising activities on trafficking in persons.
Human trafficking is an unacceptable serious human rights violation in the community and a big challenge facing all countries around the world. People, especially from less developed countries, often fall victims to human trafficking while migrating to developed countries for seeking employment opportunities. Every year thousands of men, women and children are trafficked in various forms and more than half of them are from the Asia-Pacific region.
The 70% of Myanmar’s population are from rural areas and they are migrating from one place to another as migrant workers due to the socio-economic conditions, internal armed conflicts and natural disasters. On this situation, brokers and traffickers take advantage of the plight of migrants and human trafficking is being perpetrated.
Annually, 300 – 360 Myanmar nationals are identified as victims of trafficking abroad and domestically, and they are trafficked primarily for purposes of forced labour, forced prostitution, forced marriage, and forced surrogacy.
The forms of trafficking are continually changing. Evidence shows that traffickers from neighbouring countries entered the country and recruited young women and girls for marriage. It is also reported that fishermen working on fishing boats and rafts in domestic fishing industries have also been trafficked for forced labour.
Myanmar has designated combatting trafficking in persons as a national cause since 1997. In March 2004, Myanmar acceded to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols on migrant smuggling and human trafficking and accelerated its actions for combatting trafficking in persons.
On 13 September 2005, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law was enacted. Under the guidance of the Central Body for Suppression of Trafficking in Persons, there are three working groups namely: Working Group on Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and Protection of Trafficked Victims, Working Group on Legal Framework and Prosecuting Measures, and Working Group on Repatriation, Reintegration and Rehabilitation of Trafficked Victims, and State/ Region/District/ Township levels Bodies and Community-based Watch Group for Combatting Trafficking in Persons have been formed. In addition, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics were developed in a Five-Year National Plan of Action on Combatting Trafficking in Persons and since then, the action plan has been implemented accordingly. At present, the annual work plan has been developed and activities are being implemented in accordance with the Third Five-Year National Plan of Action (2017-2021).
To effectively carry out the activities under the annual work plan related to Policy and Cooperation, Prevention, Prosecution and Protection, the respective working groups and State/ Region/ District/ Township/ Ward/ Village level bodies for combatting trafficking in persons have been formed and activities are being implemented in cooperation with relevant government departments/organizations, UN agencies, International Non-Governmental Organizations, and Civil Society Organizations.
Furthermore, Myanmar is a party to the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) and ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (ACTIP). Myanmar also signed the Myanmar-China/ Myanmar-Thailand/ Myanmar- Lao PDR/ Myanmar-India Bilateral MOUs on cooperation to combat trafficking in persons effectively and has been accelerating its efforts to enhance bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms in combatting trafficking in persons.
As for the prevention of trafficking in persons, awareness raising via Medias, producing awareness raising short films and songs, distributing pamphlets, setting up awareness raising Bill Board, sending awareness raising SMS to public by the assistance of phone operators, and putting trafficking in persons subject in the curricula of schools were carried out to raise public awareness. Twenty-four-hour hotlines have been set up for the public in Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon, Mandalay and Muse. These hot lines are dedicated to receiving information related to trafficking in persons, enabling efficient investigation, action against perpetrators and rescue of victims of trafficking.
From the 7th Anniversary of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day to until now, 148 trafficking in person cases have been identified and actions have been taken on a total of 475 offenders comprising of 170 males and 305 females. A total of 222 victims of trafficking comprising of 45 males and 177 females including 6 male and 40 female child victims have been rescued. A total of 388 offenders comprising of 145 males and 243 females have been prosecuted and a total of 231 offenders comprising of 92 males and 139 females have been punished.
As regards to the protection of victims of trafficking in persons, a National Standard Operating Procedures on Return/Repatriation, Reintegration and Rehabilitation of Trafficked Persons has been published and provided the support and assistance to the victims of trafficking in persons for their livelihood and also for the travel cost, medical expenses and meal costs during their legal proceedings. The establishment of a dedicated fund to provide support and assistance for victims of trafficking is also in process. Temporary shelters in Myawaddy, Muse, Kawthoung and Mandalay provide shelter and support for basic needs to the victims of trafficking in persons. At present, a temporary shelter, which can accommodate 50 male and 50 female victims in Yangon Region, and a new shelter in Kachin State are being constructed.
As Myanmar has been currently facing the challenge of trafficking in persons, the country needs to implement measures which will enhance the public awareness of various forms and negative consequences of human trafficking and the public participation in preventing trafficking in persons.
At present, due to the COVID-19, there are fewer employment opportunities, creating more vulnerabilities and increasing the need to migrate to other places for job opportunities which in turn may lead to increased cases of human trafficking. Thus, the prevention working group/bodies are urged to make accelerated efforts in carrying out their prevention activities.
In accordance with the motto of this year, 8th Anniversary of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day 2020,“Committed to the Cause- Working on the Frontline to End Human Trafficking”, I believe that respective stakeholders and organizations in cooperation with the people around the country will successfully carry out the activities in combating trafficking in persons.