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Saying 'no' to human trafficking

posted 26 Sep 2012 07:17 by Jump Penang

17/09/12 Malay Mail

Documentary highlights people afflicted by forced labour, the sex industry and war
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 - 13:42
by Meena Lakshana

IN INDIA, the streets of the red light district in Mumbai are woken by the sirens of police cars ringing through the dead of night.

In the mingle of customers and observers, pimps and ‘mother hens’ of brothels linger by the curb, trying to cajole cops. Police barge their way in and NGO Rescue Foundation founder Balkrishna Acharya leads the pack.

He searches the area, then proceeds to break open a covering on the floor.

Slowly, about seven girls no older than 20 years of age creep out.

They were forced to hide in a space no larger than a closet while the raid takes place.

Balkrishna then starts hammering at the flimsy ceiling of the brothel.

Again, about a dozen adolescent girls in simple, cotton night gowns creep out of a small area.

Some of them stumble, as they are dizzy due to the lack of air in the cramped space.

This is one of the harrowing scenes in "Not My Life", a documentary about human trafficking in all its dark shades.

Raw with the depiction of human exploitation, it is honest, grave and disturbing.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar global business where families and individuals afflicted by poverty (the most prevalent factor) are recruited to work in forced labour, the sex industry or fight in wars in their home countries.

Women, children and men are coerced, physically abused and paid low wages to work for long hours with little freedom.

LexisNexis, one of the sponsors of the documentary’s global distribution campaign, recently organised a screening here in Malaysia at Actor’s Studio in Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.

Ticket sales and proceeds from the event, titled Bringing Human Trafficking To Light, were channelled to two organisations, the Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (Camsa) and the Good Shepherd Sisters in Malaysia.

LexisNexis Asia CEO Shawn Clark, said the company hopes to compel people with the message of the documentary to make changes in their immediate environment.

“We want people to call the authorities and alert groups working on human trafficking to stop this.”

“This weakens the network and reduces the power of trafficking,” he said.

Clark also said the company hoped to enlist lawyers to do pro bono work for victims of human trafficking.

Camsa country manager Daniel Lo said human trafficking is imperative in today’s modern society, especially in an age increasingly being defined by the sharing of information with the click of a button.

“Human trafficking is the second most profitable criminal activity in the world, after the trade of drugs and arms.”

“Why does human trafficking matter? It’s because freedom matters – my freedom, your freedom and freedom of the victims,” he said.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion on the issue, where International Labour Organisation (ILO) Triangle project national coordinator Anni Santiago and Good Shepherd Welfare Centre executive director Theresa Symons provided their views on industry of human exploitation.

Santiago said there are an estimated 214 million migrants worldwide.

ILO also estimates there are 105 million active migrant workers located around the world, out of which 20.9 million are trapped in forced labour.

She said some of the major issues contributing to forced labour are the growth of commercial businesses profiting from the movement of people, high cost of legal migration channels, limited regulation of recruitment practices and low-level knowledge of migrants themselves about their labour and migration rights.

“The government can play an important role in the aspect of the recruitment by keeping it at a minimum period and monitored by governmental agencies.”

“Migrant workers are also not allowed to enter trade unions so they have an issue of where to seek redress if need be."

She also said the increased regulation of recruitment agencies and the provision of knowledge on rights to potential migrant workers are critical.

“There are standard pre-departure programmes in countries like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to educate individuals so that they can make informed decisions on migration.”

Symons offered a different perspective to the issue, when she mentioned that certain Nordic countries stipulate the act of purchasing sexual favours illegal under the law.

“I was at a conference on human trafficking once and one man said this: We men are the buyers, sex workers are the goods and brothel owners are the vendors.”

“So with the enforcement of those laws in the Nordic countries, the focus is not so much on the supply of women, but the demand for them.”

She said as long as there is demand for sex workers, be it women or children, the industry thrives and the advent of technology only complicates matters.

Symons said for headway to be made in controlling human trafficking activities, we have to address gender equality, poverty and women’s rights-something the world at large is still grappling with today.

16 resolutions passed

posted 26 Sep 2012 07:11 by Jump Penang

18 September 2012, NST

UNANIMOUS: Participants urge Suu Kyi, Myanmar to uphold human rights for Rohingya

KUALA LUMPUR: PARTICIPANTS at the end of the one-day international conference on the "Plight of the Rohingya: Solutions?" yesterday unanimously passed 16 resolutions, including a call for Aung San Suu Kyi and other political parties in Myanmar to promote ethnic rights and equality.

The resolutions stated Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy Party should take an unequivocal and proactive role in ending the plight of the Rohingya.

Presented by Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak, the resolutions also called on the Myanmar government to recognise the legitimate rights of the Rohingya to live in peace and move freely within the country.

"We call on the government of Myanmar to create conditions for the safe and voluntary return of displaced Rohingya to their homes or alternative locations of their choosing without persecution or discrimination," said Ahmad Fuzi, who is Ambassador-at-Large from the Foreign Affairs ministry.

He said the Rohingya deserved the rights to shelter, food, water, health care, education and basic sanitation according to international human rights law, norms and standards.

Participants of the conference also roundly condemned the continuing acts of violence, rape, beatings, burning of dwellings, killings and forced disappearances of the Rohingya and urged the Myanmar government to amend its 1982 Citizenship Act to grant citizenship to the people.

Another adopted resolution reminded the Myanmar government that its failure to resolve the Rohingya problem would undermine its current reform and progress towards national reconciliation, democracy and prosperity.

Asean was urged to play a more active, substantive and effective role in resolving the ethnic minority's problem in the interest of regional peace and stability.

Conference participants agreed that the United Nations should facilitate the establishment of a "cordon sanitaire" (sanitary cordon) to provide internally displaced Rohingya a safe and humane environment pending the attainment of a political solution.

A copy of the adopted resolutions will be sent to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Myanmar president Thein Sein, the Bangladesh president, Asean's secretary-general, the OIC's secretary-general and the UN secretary-general.

The conference, organised by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation, was attended by representatives from diplomatic corporations, international organisations, parliamentarians, human rights groups, academia, civil society and non-governmental organisations.

At a press conference later, keynote speaker Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had contact with many international leaders and could easily push the resolutions forward.

"We cannot guarantee that all the resolutions will be fulfilled, but we have to try and push them to the heads of states and people with authority.

"The United States is fond of applying pressure on other nations by utilising economic sanctions and this is a situation in which it could be used," said the honorary president of the Perdana Leadership Foundation.

Dr Mahathir said in Malaysia, several organisations had come forward to set up schools for Rohingya refugees.

However, he cautioned that this, too, could become a problem.

"It could tempt others to come here. As it is now, we also have refugees from Laos and Cambodia.

"If people see this country as a good place to go, they will all come here and it may result in our own people not being able to get jobs."

Preventive laws needed

posted 26 Sep 2012 07:10 by Jump Penang

12 September 2012  NST


LYNCHPIN: Michael Chong believes ISA helped in fight against human smuggling

KUALA LUMPUR: DATUK Michael Chong doesn't get frustrated easily. But the thought of  human smugglers, drug traffickers, vice syndicates, religious extremists and terrorist  groups running their operations relatively unhindered, gets him worked up.

Chong, who heads the MCA's Public Services and Complaint Bureau, had spent a good part of his 25-year career saving people from the clutches of human smuggling and human trafficking syndicates.

A major lynchpin in his fight against these syndicates and their offshoots was the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Ordinance.

"Before the preventive laws were abolished, when human trafficking victims come to me, I would inform the police and they would arrest the pimps under those laws without having to charge them. We didn't have to worry about going to court.

"Now, we can no longer touch the bad guys, as the victims would want to go back to their home country. They do not want to go through the hassle of going to court, testify and then risk having their former bosses being acquitted.

"So now I cannot nail the bad guys because I no longer have the tools to fight this scourge. But I still have to deal with this problem. I am so frustrated by this," Chong told the New Straits Times recently.

Chong said throughout his years of working with the police, he had never seen them abuse the preventive law.

"So to the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) that complain there were too many arrests made under preventive law, I would say that the police carry out their duties based on a set of principles. They will only use it on those who have done wrong."

He said preventive laws are needed in combating human smuggling.

"I have helped Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian girls who were forced into prostitution. Pimps are so good at covering their tracks that to go after the human smuggling syndicates' heads, you need to use preventive laws. Open laws give these criminals a way out."

The NST had run two front page stories as part of its series to highlight the seriousness of this crime in the country and the need for a stronger fist of law to stop Malaysia from being used as a transit country for human smuggling syndicates.

Before the abolition of the law, authorities were ready to use the Internal Security Act against 40 individuals from several human smuggling syndicates who they said posed a "serious security threat" to the nation.

Authorities are asking for more clout to go all out to cripple these syndicates. One way to do this in the absence of the ISA is to amend the Security Offences Act (Special Measures) 2012 and make human smuggling and piracy, security offences, sources said.

They are asking that the scourge that had put Malaysia on the United States State Department's "watchlist" as a transit point in human smuggling be included in the act.

This, they said, would give them time to investigate opened cases and to reduce the burden of proof, as dealing with syndicates needed preemptive measures, including surveillance, intelligence gathering, planting of moles and agent provocateurs -- all inadmissible in court.

Authorities said unless human smuggling is included under the new act, they would have problems using findings of their investigations, as witnesses, many of whom would have dealt directly with these syndicates, would not put themselves at risk.

The new law, however, allows for evidence from witnesses to be given under special circumstances, including in camera. The witness would not be heard or be visible to the accused or his counsel, or put in a situation that could lead to him being identified.

The Security Offences Act covers "offences against the state": waging or attempting to wage war or abetting the waging of war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri and offences against the person of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri. It also covers offences related to terrorism.

Detained but business thriving

posted 26 Sep 2012 06:45 by Jump Penang

NST 11 September 2012


KAMUNTING: AMASSING a personal fortune of more than RM225 million in just three years running a human smuggling network, Kasmin (not his real name), 49, was flying high, thinking nothing could stop his operations.

News that the Internal Security Act had been repealed, further emboldened him.

Now behind bars and knowing that his detention cannot be extended, Kasmin runs his set-up with the help of trusted lieutenants outside the camp. All he does now is count the money as it rolls in while being a guest of the taxpayers at the maximum-security detention centre.

He had the services of several people in the many enforcement agencies, which could threaten to cripple his lucrative business, eating from the palm of his hands, with monthly payoffs.

So well covered was his operations that an entire village was in his payroll. It was rumoured that like the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, Kasmin was well-liked by the villagers who would alert him and his lieutenants if there were unfamiliar faces in the village or strangers asking too many questions.

In exchange for their loyalty, Kasmin was generous. It was reported that he even forked out RM60,000 to pay for a villager's heart operation.

But things came to an end when a team from the Special Branch, which had been watching his every move, swooped in and shut down his operation.

Two months later, his lieutenant, who had absconded to India, came back and surrendered, realising that he couldn't be on the run forever and leave his five children behind in Malaysia.

The duo couldn't argue their case with their arresting officers when they were shown a stack of files and evidence of their involvement -- from the coffee sessions they had had with their clients and runners, to pictures of the people they had moved.

They then joined scores of other human smugglers already incarcerated at the Kamunting detention camp, including a notorious Sri Lankan syndicate leader who goes by the name Tony.

RM130m from sending people to Australia

posted 26 Sep 2012 06:39 by Jump Penang

NST 11 September 2012


KAMUNTING: TONY, who was arrested on Sept 9, 2009, had been smuggling Sri Lankans to Christmas Island, Australia, and had amassed a fortune of more than RM130 million.

Several Kamunting detention camp detainees the New Straits Times spoke to shed light on the intricate dealings with syndicate snakeheads and crime bosses to ensure their operations were foolproof.

So well-organised and strong were their networking that they had associates to handle all aspects of their operations, including the falsification and forgery of documents, passports and work permits.

The NST learnt that these syndicates favoured travel documents from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and countries in western Europe.
It was revealed that the people they brought into Malaysia were more than those looking for greener pastures in a foreign land. Some included those being hunted by their respective governments for their involvement in militant activities.

These included Jemaah Islamiyah members in Sabah as well as the Hazaras, who fought the Taliban, as well as other militant groups from the Middle East.
The fee for safe passage was anywhere between US$15,000 (RM46,500) and US$25,000 each.

Intelligence sources told the NST that these individuals were smuggled in with the help of wayward Immigration officers.

There were the odd gangster or two, as well as lieutenants and commanders of militant groups, who would later be assimilated into local communities and who would set up their own communities.

One detainee was a lieutenant-colonel with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which fought a separatist battle in Sri Lanka.

"When these people were smuggled in, they also brought in weapons and drugs.

"Some of these militants were also looking for ways to strengthen their links and this could, in a way, challenge Malaysia's sovereignty.

"The money involved is mind-boggling.

"A financial officer for one of the syndicates, when arrested, had more than RM300,000 in the trunk of her car. Let's not even talk about the cash found under her bed," a detained human smuggler said, adding that it would have been impossible to nab the smugglers' snakeheads with open laws.

Another syndicate chief, also in the Kamunting camp, was reaping in so much profit that he bought a cargo ship to expand his business for RM850,000 in cash.
These detainees also told of the violent and sometimes brutal tactics they used to maintain control and protect their turf and reputation.

One particular detainee, his skin hardened and scorched by the incessant beating of the sun and the elements, related his experience after being put at the helm of a boat ferrying migrants to Christmas Island through Indonesia.

After a storm sank his vessel with 120 boat people off the coast of Sumatra, his syndicate's Indonesian network came to the rescue.

Twenty of them refused to get on board the replacement boat and wanted out.

This infuriated his boss who feared that word might spread about his less-than reliable service.

"The 20 were taken ashore, confined and beaten into changing their minds."

Asean locks horns on migrant workers’ rights

posted 25 Sep 2012 06:48 by Jump Penang

Malaysia business insight 11/09/12

In December 2009, Indonesia and the Philippines produced the initial draft of a proposal to give flesh to the two-year-old declaration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to promote and protect the rights of migrant workers within the region.

But the draft, especially on the contentious issue of undocumented workers, quickly came under fire from two other countries: Malaysia and Thailand.  

Malaysia strongly opposed the inclusion of undocumented foreign workers and families of migrant workers within the scope of the proposed regional instrument on labor migration. 

Thailand, on the other hand, wanted a clear distinction between documented and undocumented workers, and insisted that rights accorded migrant workers should not exceed those granted to the locals. 

The deadlock highlights the conflicting interests of labor-sending countries like Indonesia and the Philippines and of labor-receiving countries like Malaysia and Thailand. It partly explains why it will likely take years for the regional instrument to come into being.

Conflicting interests among the member states “are reflected in their opposing position, commitment and approach to dealing with issues and problems concerning migrant workers,” writes Ben Perkasa, director of the Foreign Service School in Indonesia, in the English-language Jakarta Post in May. Perkasa is Indonesia’s former representative to the Asean Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW), which is in charge of drafting the proposed instrument.

Binding or not?

A major source of disagreement among countries is the nature of the instrument that Asean will eventually adopt.  

Source countries interpret the instrument “as an international agreement” and thus binding, while others see it only as “no more than guidance, which is not legally binding,” said Perkasa.

Reports reaching national and regional rights groups say the instrument would be merely called an “Asean Agreement” instead of a “Framework Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Migrant Workers.” A copy of the “zero draft” obtained for this report confirms that a nonbinding Asean instrument is indeed in the works. 

Should this happen, Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said it would be “a cruel joke” on migrant workers of the region. 

“The question to ask the Asean leaders is, Why can you negotiate a binding agreement when it comes to foreign domestic investment or reduction of trade tariffs, but you fail to do so when it comes to making an agreement to protect your people when they leave the country to work?” he said.

Sinapan Samydorai, convenor of the nongovernmental Task Force on Asean Migrant Workers (TF-AMW) based in Singapore, said there are fears that the instrument would take the form of a convention—legally binding, but only after it is ratified. This means the 10 member states of Asean could simply drag their feet on the ratification of the instrument. 

Longest negotiation

“The excessive differences in the drafting process resulted in four years of deadlock, one of the longest negotiation processes in Asean,” Perkasa said.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) head Hans Cacdac who represents the country in the ACMW, has witnessed this deep division as a former member of drafting team of the ACMW.

During a meeting in Singapore in April, Malaysia wanted the team “to clarify the common understanding between the member states” on the basic concepts of protection of migrant workers, he said. This, in effect, meant bringing the whole discussion back to square one.

Before the April meeting, the team had already reached a consensus in September 2011 to discuss the major issues dividing the countries in phases: Phase 1 (2012) on regular migrant workers; Phase 2 (2013) on undocumented workers and migrant workers’ families; and the third and final phase (2014) on the form of the instrument, whether it will legally binding or not.

Cacdac sees the glass half full.

“Three or four years ago, we found it extremely hardly to push the discussion of these issues off the ground,” he said. “At least today we have a timeline.” 

The Ministry of Manpower in Singapore also said Asean members have made “commendable progress” in drafting the ACMW Instrument since the declaration was adopted in 2007. 

“(They) have demonstrated during discussions that they could put aside national differences as they work towards achieving the shared goal of protecting and promoting the rights of migrant workers,” it said.

Civil society groups and rights advocates, however, see the proverbial glass as all but empty.

“Regrettably, there has been no appreciable progress,” rues Robertson, who is also the TF-AMW’s technical adviser.

The Asean Secretariat declined to comment on the the drafting of the Asean instrument. “I am afraid that we are not (at) liberty to answer your questions because the process is still at a preliminary stage,” said Mega Arena, assistant director and head of Social Welfare, Women, Labor and Migrant Workers Division at Asean.

Bilateral agreements not enough 

Without a regional mechanism for migrant worker protection in place, the five million intra-Asean migrant workers have only agreements forged between their country and another member state to fall back on to protect their rights, if at all these exist or are worker-friendly.

Bilateral labor agreements (BLAs), which are binding, and memoranda of understanding (MOUs), which are nonbinding and less formal, are traditional mechanisms for managing migration flows and addressing migrant worker concerns. 

Forging labor agreements, including MOUs, is a “long and tedious process” owing to the reluctance of destination countries to enter into BLAs, Stella Go, chairperson of the Philippine Migration Research Network, said in a paper presented at a forum on Labor Migration in Asia in January 2011. 

Go said these countries argue that “foreign workers are subject to the same laws as nationals” anyway and that “formal agreement with one country could open (the) floodgate of proposals from other countries.”

Labor rights advocates say bilateral agreements on labor migration do not work. 

Human Rights Watch’s Robertson cited, for example, the bilateral MOUs Thailand has with neighboring Mekong countries—Burma, Cambodia and Laos—and those of the Philippines with many countries. 

These agreements, he said, “have been continually thwarted by failures to control ‘legal’ manpower/labor recruitment companies in labor-sending countries which continue to charge excessive fees to intending migrant workers, and failure of labor-receiving countries to provide adequate protection for workers even with their legal status.” 

Adisorn Kerdmongkol, a senior policy adviser with the Thailand-based International Rescue Committee, which assists migrants and cross-border refugees, said bilateral agreements between Thailand and other Mekong countries have resulted in increased protections for migrant workers, but many issues remain unresolved such as high recruitment fees and the prohibition for workers to change employers unless they meet certain conditions. 

“There has not been much progress,” he said.

Indonesia’s 2006 MOU with Malaysia on migrant workers did not prevent the abuse of a number of its domestic workers who had slaved it out within the backyard of the region’s emerging economic power. This prompted the Indonesian government to halt the deployment of Indonesian domestic helpers to Malaysia in 2009. 

The moratorium, however, “failed to result in effective changes to increase the protection of its workers’ rights,” Irene Fernandez, executive director of Tenaganita, a Kuala Lumpur-based NGO helping migrant workers, said.

Malaysia soon turned to Cambodia for its direly needed supply of domestic workers. Last year the Cambodian government, following in Indonesia’s footsteps, banned the sending of workers to Malaysia following a trail of abuses against, even deaths of, some Cambodians while serving their employers.

On May 30, 2011, the MOU between Malaysia and Indonesia was revised to include some positive changes. Yet it did not set a minimum wage and allowed recruiters to collect several months of the workers’ salaries as fees. 

If anything, source or origin countries share part of the blame for the hapless state of many of their migrant workers.

The “labor export policies of the source countries have remained the same,” said Fernandez, citing the Philippines—the biggest labor-sending country in the region—as a “classic example.”

Vicente Cabe, Philippine labor attaché in Singapore, said, however, sending states must work within the system of receiving countries. “We have to understand that they (host countries) have to balance their interests.” 

Oftentimes, though, these interests are skewed heavily against those of migrant workers, leaving them at the mercy of their employers.

Thus, unless they conform to international core labor standards—and oftentimes they do not—bilateral labor agreements and similar mechanisms cannot work.

This again brings to the fore the need for a binding and rights-based regional mechanism, CSOs and human rights advocates say.

Going forward 

What labor-sending countries need to do is push their provisions in the proposed Asean instrument on labor migration “more strongly” in the face of vigorous opposition from major receiving states to certain provisions favorable to migrant workers, Fernandez said.

“It appears that those governments working to frustrate a comprehensive agreement to protect migrant workers have more political will to stop progress than those trying to promote such a deal,” Robertson said.

POEA’s Cacdac said the Philippines remains firm in pushing for rights-based provisions and in convincing receiving states to accept the provisions on undocumented workers and families of migrant workers. 

“More protection and security to the workers need to be emphasized (in the planned instrument),” said Fitri Riyanti, minister counselor for political affairs of the Indonesian Embassy in the Philippines.

But more important, it is time “for advocacy at the national level to press governments to demand progress by the ACMW,” said Robertson.

Such advocacy should be pursued by the Asean peoples themselves, human rights advocates say. 

Said Fernandez: “I would like to see a very visible, consolidated Asean people’s movement (that) will be a force to reckon with.” 


This story was produced under the “Reporting Development in Asean” series of IPS Asia-Pacific, a program supported by the International Development Research Centre. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

New Trafficking Route Ends in Malaysia

posted 22 Jun 2012 17:17 by Jump Penang

Radio free Asia, 2012-05-21

Lao girls are being lured via Thailand by human smuggling rings.


Three young Laotian girls carry water in a village in Khammouane province, Nov. 27, 2002.

Human trafficking rings are increasingly using Thailand as a transit country to send Lao girls to Malaysia where they are sold into prostitution, according to a Lao official who called the route a “new problem” for authorities.

The anti-human trafficking official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said only a few cases were currently under investigation, but was unclear on how many girls may have been taken to Malaysia through Thailand.

“Lao girls being trafficked from Thailand to Malaysia for prostitution is a new problem for Lao authorities. It is also a new route for human trafficking,” the official told RFA’s Lao service.

The official said that the Lao Anti-trafficking Unit—created in 2005 to coordinate national law enforcement—had received complaints from “many families” asking for help finding missing daughters believed to have been lured into prostitution in Malaysia.

“The Lao anti-human trafficking unit doesn’t know the exact number of Lao girls who have been lured to Malaysia to work as prostitutes,” he said.

“There has been cooperation between Lao and Malaysian police [investigations] via the Thai police.”

Based on statistics provided by the immigration bureau of Thailand’s Songkla province, which borders Malaysia to the north, 48,000 Laotians crossed into Malaysia in 2011, but only 46,000 returned.

Disturbing trend

Last year saw a number of raids by authorities freeing Lao girls who had been trafficked as sex workers to brothels in Thailand, but using the country for transit to Malaysia highlights a new and disturbing trend in human smuggling.

In December, Thai police freed 21 Lao women, three of them under the age of 18, from two karaoke bars in the town of Sungai Golok in southern Narathiwat province, where they were forced to work as prostitutes.

Sungai Golok, which Thai police say is a major human trafficking destination in the country with over 100 brothels, is located on the border with Malaysia.

In August, Thai authorities freed 59 Lao women from a karaoke bar as part of a larger bust that rescued another 12 women from a spa. Both raids took place in Songkhla province near the border with Malaysia.

Thirteen of those freed were girls under the age of 18.

In February, police rescued five Lao teenage girls from a karaoke bar in central Thailand’s Suphan Buri province where they were forced to work as prostitutes after being told they would be given jobs at a restaurant in Bangkok.

And in October last year, police rescued 13 girls from Laos who were forced into prostitution in Thailand’s Lop Buri province and arrested four suspects involved in a syndicate smuggling underage girls.

Some 35 percent of Lao nationals trafficked to Thailand end up in prostitution, U.N. figures have shown.

Anti-trafficking efforts

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons report, “Laos is a source … for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, and men, women, and children in conditions of forced labor in factory work, domestic labor, agriculture, and the fishing industry.”

Lao men, women, and children are found in conditions of forced labor in Thailand, Malaysia, and China, the report said.

According to the report, Laos does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, though it said the government has been making “significant efforts” to do so.

It said the Lao government continued to rely almost entirely on nongovernmental organizations and international organizations to provide victim assistance in 2010.

Lao authorities reported investigating 20 trafficking cases involving 47 alleged offenders, and convicting 33 trafficking offenders in 2010, compared with zero convictions during the previous year.

Observers of trafficking in Laos believe that some public officials—particularly at local levels—are involved in facilitating human trafficking, sometimes in collusion with counterparts in neighboring Thailand, the report said.

"Nevertheless, the government has never reported any officials investigated, prosecuted, or punished for involvement in trafficking in persons."

The Lao National Assembly approved a National Plan of Action on human trafficking in 2007 but it has not been endorsed by the prime minister’s office.

Every province in Laos operates an anti-human trafficking unit, but many officials complain that a lack of budget and personnel prevents them from effectively carrying out their jobs.

Reported by Apichart Sopapong for RFA’s Lao service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Gov't vows to stop sending maids abroad by 2017

posted 22 Jun 2012 15:46 by Jump Penang

The Jakarta Post 29/5/12

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar says the government is preparing to stop sending domestic workers abroad as of 2017.

“We will do our best to provide comprehensive trainings so that they will be ready to enter more competitive industries when the time comes,” Muhaimin said on Tuesday.

He said if the ministry still encountered domestic workers by 2017 then stricter requirements would be applied.

“Our domestic workers will be available for employment again once the host countries agree to implement numerous requirements, such as fixed working hours, holidays and insurance,” he said.

He added that, so far, Malaysia had implemented regulations to guarantee those rights for migrant workers.

Commenting on this, Anis Hidayah from Migrant Care, an NGO concerned with issues surrounding Indonesian migrant workers, said the government had blatantly introduced a serious setback in this particular field.

She said that by categorizing domestic workers as informal-sector workers, the government had seriously violated International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No.189, which defines domestic workers as formal-sector workers.

“President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono himself had said before the ILO meeting in Paris last year that domestic workers should be recognized as formal-sector workers. However, Muhaimin’s comments proves that the President’s speech was no more than empty words,” she told The Jakarta Post.

The government, via the ministry, had previously imposed a moratorium on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia due to the implementation of the death penalty toward a number of Indonesian workers there.

Trafficking victims allowed to find work

posted 22 Jun 2012 15:44 by Jump Penang

The Sun Daily 29 May 2012

PETALING JAYA (May 28, 2012)
: Five Indian nationals who were victims of human trafficking have been allowed to stay and work in Malaysia as part of the Home Ministry’s policy on exploited workers.

In a statement to the media the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Abdul Rahim Mohd Radzi said the five are the second batch of human trafficking victims who were permitted to seek employment in the country since the policy was announced earlier this year by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Under this policy, victims of human trafficking for labour exploitation placed in shelter homes can take up employment once they are released. The previous policy was to deport them.

On March 7, 32 Bangladeshi workers became the first batch allowed to stay and work in Malaysia under this policy.

Both groups of Indian and Bangladeshi workers were categorised as exploited workers in accordance to the Anti-trafficking in Persons and Anti-smuggling of Migrants Act 2007.

This initiative has been successfully implemented through the involvement of various ministries, agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGO).

Abdul Rahim added that the strategic cooperation is a critical element in the government’s effort to improve protection for human trafficking victims, based on international standards which emphasises on a victim-centered approach.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Lee Chee Leong said victims’ protection and rehabilitation is one of the crucial elements in the global effort to combat human trafficking, in addition to prosecuting the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” he said.

Vigil held for maid who was starved to death

posted 21 May 2012 07:31 by Jump Penang

The Malay Mail, May 20, 2012 - 23:05

An individual signs JUMP's call for justice campaign for Mey Sichan's who died of prolonged starvation on March 31.

GEORGE TOWN: The death of 24-year-old Cambodian Mey Sichan was given justice today during a candlelight vigil and a signature drive organised by the Northern Network for Migrants and Refugees (JUMP) at the Speakers' Corner this evening.

Mey, a domestic helper, who weighed at 26kg was found dead in a Bukit Mertajam house allegedly due to prolonged starvation on March 31 after working here for eight months.

Her employers, hardware store owners Soh Chew Tong, 43, and his wife Chin Chui Ling, 40, were charged for murder on April 13. Their case is up for mention on June 7.

A group of 60 persons from various human rights NGOs and individuals gathered with candles, sang songs and called for justice for migrant workers who suffer in the hands of their employers.


JUMP representative Lochhead (4th, L) stands with fellow human rights NGO members and individuals who called for justice for the late 24-year-old Mey Sichan.

About 150 persons signed JUMP's signature drive to create awareness on abuses against domestic maids and migrant workers.

JUMP representative James Lochhead said the event was organised to remind people that Mey's death cannot be in vain and her voice cannot be forgotten.

"We say enough is enough. Please stop deaths an abuses on migrant workers, domestic maids and refugees in Malaysia.

"We condemn the murder of Mey as well as the climate of abuse that allows domestic workers to be treated as slaves without adhering to many basic standards of human rights," said Lochhead.

While pointing out that Mey's death was part of nine Cambodian maids who have died during employment since last year, he said one of them was Choy Pich 22, who was found dead outside her employer's house in Penang in July 2011.

He said there are about a quarter of a million domestic workers here and several documented abuse in the past have led countries like Indonesia and Cambodia to suspend the supply of maids in June 2009 and October 2011, respectively.

"Her death has to be the impetus to the question if Malaysia's progressing economy has to be on the backs of migrant workers and domestic labour.

"Work done that Malaysians don't want to do yet is fundamental to the country's economic success. Therefore, we ask why progress comes without basic human rights for many," he said.

Lochhead highlighted nine demands the government should look into including the recognition of domestic maids as workers under the Employment Act 1955, a day off and limit to working hours.

A Cambodian Embassy official Kosal Chhay said he 'almost could not believe' that Mey, a mother of four, died of prolonged starvation because it meant that she 'got serious punishments from her employer until she died'.

"Now, our new generation enjoys freedom of life but why do my people like Mey meet such bad circumstances similar to that under the Pol Pot regime between 1975 and 1979?" said Chhay, whose statement was read out by Lochhead.

"I suffer for Mey. I don't know how to describe my feelings! It is more and more painful to this she met with this misfortune," he said, while questioning Mey's death.

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