Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Burma

BURMA (Tier 3)

Burma is a source country for women, children, and men trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Burmese women and children are trafficked to Thailand, People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Macau for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced labor. Some Burmese migrating abroad for better economic opportunities wind up in situations of forced or bonded labor or forced prostitution. Burmese children are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Thailand as hawkers, beggars, and for work in shops, agriculture, fish processing, and small-scale industries. Women are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Malaysia and the P.R.C.; some women are trafficked to the P.R.C. as forced brides. Some trafficking victims transit Burma from Bangladesh to Malaysia and from P.R.C. to Thailand. Internal trafficking occurs primarily from villages to urban centers and economic hubs for labor in industrial zones, agricultural estates, and commercial sexual exploitation. Forced labor and trafficking may also occur in ethnic border areas outside the central government's control. Military and civilian officials continue to use a significant amount of forced labor. Poor villagers in rural regions must provide corvee labor on demand as a tax imposed by authorities. Urban poor and street children in Rangoon and Mandalay are at growing risk of involuntary conscription as child soldiers by the Burmese junta, as desertions of men in the Burmese army rises. Ethnic insurgent groups also used compulsory labor of adults and unlawful recruitment of children. The military junta's gross economic mismanagement, human rights abuses, and its policy of using forced labor are the top causal factors for Burma's significant trafficking problem.

The Government of Burma does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Military and civilian officials remained directly involved in significant acts of forced labor and unlawful conscription of child soldiers. The government, however, made modest improvements in its collaboration with the ILO on forced labor complaints, implementing the 2007 Supplementary Understanding on Forced Labor, though its criminal punishment of these trafficking crimes remained weak. Over the past year, the government took some steps to combat cross-border trafficking by increasing law enforcement efforts at border crossings and collaboration with the P.R.C.

Recommendations for Burma: Criminally prosecute military or civilian officials responsible for forced labor and the conscription of children into armed forces; increase prosecutions and convictions for internal trafficking; collaborate with international NGOs and international organizations in a transparent and accountable manner; and focus more attention on internal trafficking of females for commercial sexual exploitation.


The Burmese junta demonstrated modest progress to combat cross-border trafficking throughout the past year, though it continued to conflate illegal emigration with trafficking and it took limited law enforcement action against military or civilian officials who engaged in forced labor. Burma criminally prohibits sex and labor trafficking through its 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, which prescribes penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for rape. Military recruitment of children under 18 is prohibited by Armed Forces Notification number 13/73 from 1974. The Burmese junta rules arbitrarily through its unilaterally imposed laws but rule of law is absent, as is an independent judiciary that would respect trafficking victims' rights and provide fair justice. The Burmese government stated that it investigated 236 cases of trafficking, identifying 237 suspected traffickers, in 2007. The regime also reported it arrested 174 traffickers, prosecuted 18 trafficking cases, and convicted 31 traffickers. In the past, data claimed to represent trafficking in persons issues often included individuals caught trying to leave Burma without permission. In cases where persons are internally trafficked for labor by a high-level official or well-connected individual, the police can be expected to self-limit their investigations, even if no political pressure has been overtly employed. Burmese law enforcement officers worked with Chinese counterparts in joint investigations of 11 cross-border trafficking cases, which resulted in the rescue of 57 Burmese victims. Labor traffickers found guilty under the law are subject to imprisonment and a fine. The Ministry of Labor in 2007 issued licenses to 122 companies to recruit workers for overseas jobs. Since 2005, the Ministry of Labor cancelled the licenses of 53 companies for legal violations. In 2007, the ILO Liaison Officer accepted 53 complaints and submitted 37 to the Burmese Government for action during the February 2007-2008 period. The government prosecuted four perpetrators of forced labor, dismissed seven civilian administrative perpetrators, and reprimanded 11 military perpetrators – inadequate punishments. In 2007, two government officials were prosecuted and found guilty of violating Section 30 of the Trafficking Law, involving official corruption. No details were made public and this conviction is currently under appeal. During the year, the government conducted training related to trafficking in persons for 60 instructors and 45 other law enforcement officials.


The Burmese regime showed modest efforts to protect repatriated victims of cross-border sex trafficking. There were no discernable efforts to protect the far larger number of victims of forced labor and internal sex trafficking exploited within Burma's borders. In the past, victims of forced labor could be penalized for making accusations against the officials who impressed them unlawfully into forced labor. The government also, at times, filed charges against those who assist claimants of forced labor, including their legal counsel and witnesses. The government took steps to resolve these issues by extending the 2007 Supplementary Understanding on Forced Labor for an additional year in February 2008. This established a mechanism for forced labor complaints and provided protections for those who reported cases to the ILO, and harassment of complainants dropped in 2007. The government provides no legal assistance to victims. The government encourages internationally trafficked victims to assist in investigations and prosecutions. Victims have the right to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. In 2007, officials improved the level of victim protection from inappropriate media attention during the repatriation and reintegration process. Victims are not jailed, fined, or prosecuted for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. Over the last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs reported assisting 137 victims, the Ministry of Social Welfare stated it helped 79 victims, and Women's Affairs Federation reportedly assisted 110 returned victims. In October 2007, the Anti-Trafficking Task Force in Tachilek rescued eight female P.R.C. victims being trafficked from Yunnan Province to Thailand. The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and Police provided care to the victims for two months, after which they were repatriated to the P.R.C. The DSW provided temporary shelter to repatriated victims at eight vocational training centers as well as a reintegration package which includes counseling, vocational training, and health care. In 2007, the government showed limited cooperation with international organizations on the issue of the military's conscription of children, resulting in the return of 11 children to their families, though it did not adequately punish those responsible for these child trafficking offenses.


The government increased its efforts to prevent international trafficking in persons. The government also established a Bilateral Liaison Office (BLO) in Muse, along the China border, which shares information about trafficking with Chinese counterparts. Although the government improved its activities, addressing international trafficking issues, it made little effort to address far more prevalent trafficking issues inside the country's borders. The government has an interagency Working Committee on Prevention chaired by the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare. The National Police conducted 306 awareness campaigns reaching over 28,000 people. The Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with an international organization conducted awareness raising campaigns at bus terminals, targeting drivers, merchants, ticket sellers, and local police. The government posted billboards and notices at hotels aimed at tourists to warn about trafficking.

Burma tier ranking by year


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.