U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Malaysia

Malaysia (Tier 2)

Malaysia is a destination and to a lesser extent a source and transit country for trafficking for sexual exploitation. Foreign trafficking victims come from Indonesia, China, Thailand, and neighboring countries of Southeast Asia. A small number of Malaysian women (primarily of Chinese origin) are trafficked to Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and Taiwan.

The Government of Malaysia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government acknowledges that trafficking is a problem, and has taken initial steps to combat it. Comprehensive counter-trafficking legislation is needed to help enable officials to deal with the problem. The government's National Human Rights Commission recently made positive recommendations regarding foreign victim protection.


Malaysia does not have a law that specifically and comprehensively addresses trafficking in persons. However, there are existing laws, including the Penal Code, that are used against traffickers. Malaysian law criminalizes most of the acts involved in severe forms of trafficking in persons.

In 2003, Malaysia prosecuted 70 cases of suspected trafficking under the country's Immigration Act. Malaysia prosecuted 24 cases under a trafficking statute; seven of these led to convictions. In addition, 40 suspected traffickers were detained without trial under the Internal Security Act; another 49 individuals suspected of trafficking-related crimes were detained without trial under the Restricted Residence Act. The lack of a specific law addressing trafficking in persons, as well as use of the Internal Security Act and Restricted Residence Act in lieu of the criminal court system, makes it more difficult to accurately identify and quantify trafficking statistics. The government should institute a witness protection program, encouraging knowledgeable victims to testify against the criminal syndicates that are responsible for much of the trafficking in persons in Malaysia.

The Government of Malaysia provided training for some of its higher-ranking officials. There is no systematic anti-trafficking training program to sensitize front-line police and immigration officers who conduct raids on brothels and could identify potential victims. While illegal migration is a major national security issue, it does not detract from the government's commitment to combat trafficking. The lack of government translators to interview foreign trafficking victims has significantly hampered efforts to assist victims. An NGO activist who maintains a shelter for abused women and TIP victims was appointed to the newly created royal commission on police reform.


Malaysia in 2003 continued an inadequate performance of protecting and assisting trafficking victims. Malaysian law does not codify the difference between trafficking victims, illegal migrants, and asylum seekers. Thus, victims, especially those who do not usually speak Bahasa Melayu, are sometimes detained. Royal Malaysian Police further lack the training and language skills to screen trafficking victims from illegal migrants. Foreign trafficking victims are often not recognized as victims and are treated as immigration offenders. The Government arrested and detained 5,564 foreign women suspected of prostitution, many of whom were likely trafficking victims. The Malaysian Human Rights Commission "Suhakam," reported in April 2004 that it questioned 1,544 foreign women imprisoned for prostitution and identified approximately 350 trafficking victims; some of these have been released. The Government of Malaysia turned over 300 victims of trafficking to the care of the Indonesian and Thai embassies last year. Malaysia has not engaged IOM in efforts to repatriate foreign trafficking victims. Victims who are arrested for prostitution are usually examined for HIV/AIDS. In a recent case, 14 victims rescued from a high-rise apartment building were sent to a hospital for care and subsequently turned over to the Indonesian embassy for repatriation.

NGOs do not receive government funding for trafficking victims specifically, although the government provides general operating funds for women's welfare. In 2003, the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Family Development opened five centers for women in need of shelter, counseling and job skills training. These shelters in early 2004 were made available to trafficking victims.


Given the relatively small number of Malaysian trafficking victims, the government has made only modest efforts to prevent new incidents of trafficking through public awareness or education campaigns. Domestically, Malaysian television broadcasts UN-sponsored public service announcements that warn of the dangers of trafficking. The Malaysian Chinese Association, within the Government's ruling political coalition, publishes warnings about trafficking in its Chinese language publications, makes public statements to caution potential victims about overly lucrative job offers abroad, and holds periodic press conferences highlighting the plight of returned Malaysian trafficking victims. Internationally, Malaysia places great importance on working with ASEAN countries to fight trafficking and shares trafficking intelligence with Australia and Interpol.


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