Despite recent governmental actions to curb modern day slavery in Myanmar, human trafficking remains a common practice throughout the country.
Human trafficking takes on various forms within Myanmar, including forced labor, the use of child soldiers for the Myanmar government, and sex trafficking and prostitution. The most common countries of trade include Thailand, China, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. China and Thailand stand out as the two countries with the greatest volume of human trafficking with Myanmar, often with people sent to work in fishing villages, mines, and factories or as a prostitute or a bride.
Myanmar has been traced as both a source country for producing modern day slaves and a destination country to receive illegal slaves. Internally, the country has struggled with forced labor and military recruitment of child soldiers. According to 2011 data from the U.S. Department of State, 92 percent of families in Myanmar’s Chin State had at least one family member forced into serving the government without pay. The government recruits thousands of its citizens into forced labor, requiring them to work in infrastructure development, agriculture and, most commonly, the military. While exact numbers are unknown, thousands of these workers and soldiers are reported to be children with the youngest on record being only 11 years. The government forces the Burmese people into these situations with economic and physical threats, often targeting ethnic minorities.
The primary cause of trafficking in Myanmar traces back to the often-criticized military regime government itself. With the government’s blatant abuse of human rights and use of child soldiers, it is only natural for the Burmese people to follow their government’s lead and turn to human trafficking as a means of generating income. Furthermore, the government fails to recognize smaller ethnic minorities as citizens, which leaves them easy targets for traffickers.
Despite these problems, Myanmar officials claim they are committed to fighting this crime. Current governmental plans to address these problems include focusing on victims, building partnerships between government and civil society, and producing results in taking actions against known human traffickers. While the government pledges to increase arrests and prison sentences to address the trafficking problems, widespread government corruption remains an obstacle to progress in putting criminals away.
As of August 1, the United States and Myanmar governments convened to work on a U.S.-Myanmar Trafficking in Persons dialogue to address the issues the country has been facing. While the country faces many challenges in fighting this issue, in particular with regard to government corruption and economic strife, officials remain hopeful that Myanmar is headed in the right direction to curbing the flow of human trafficking within its borders. The test of time will demonstrate how serious the Myanmar government is in creating this change.
– Allison Meade