Cablegate: Burma: 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report

Published: Tue 16 Feb 2010 11:28 AM
DE RUEHGO #0089/01 0471128
P 161128Z FEB 10
E.O. 12958: N/A
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Summary and Recommendation
1. (U) Burma remained a source country for women, men, and
children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation.
To a lesser extent Burma is a transit country for
trafficking victims going between neighboring countries.
Forced labor and child-soldier recruitment continued to occur
within Burma. During the reporting period, the Government of
Burma (GOB) took meaningful steps to combat domestic and
cross-border trafficking.
2. (SBU) Good News: In 2009, the GOB identified 155
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) cases. These cases involved 429
traffickers, of which 410 are on trial or have been
convicted. During the same period, the GOB identified and
assisted 302 TIP victims through its own investigative
efforts and assisted an additional 425 TIP victims
repatriated by neighboring countries to Burma. Burmese
authorities built on progress made on anti-TIP efforts
between 2007-2008. The GOB increased arrests of traffickers
and expenditures on enforcement and prevention. The GOB
created new police units dedicated to TIP cases and improved
external cooperation, including by signing memoranda of
understanding (MOUs) with Thailand and China during the
reporting period. The GOB, non-governmental organizations
(NGOs), and international organizations (IOs) improved public
awareness efforts, particularly among potential TIP victims.
The head of the GOB anti-trafficking task force publicly
spoke out about TIP during the premier of a USG-sponsored TIP
documentary produced by MTV and subsequently aired on Burmese
state-run television.
3. (SBU) The GOB allowed NGO- and IO-led training of
military and civilian officials ranging from enlisted
soldiers to senior members of the judiciary. IOs and NGOs
continued to assist TIP victims with return and
reintegration. The International Labor Organization (ILO)
and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) continued to
assist child soldiers and reported improved access to higher
echelon military leaders. The military itself took
unprecedented steps to punish criminally some of those
involved in child soldier recruitment. Most international
partners agreed that the TIP awareness of their GOB
interlocutors continued to improve and felt that cooperation,
while not perfect, has increased.
4. (SBU) Bad News: Children continued to serve in the
Burmese military and in some of the armed insurgent and
ceasefire groups located in ethnic minority areas. By all
accounts, the Burmese military continued to be the main
perpetrator of forced labor inside Burma, and Burmese law
enforcement officials generally were not able to investigate
or prosecute cases of military perpetrated forced labor or
child soldier recruitment absent assent from high ranking
military officers. The cooperation, communication, and
openness to interaction with foreign partners seen on
cross-border TIP issues was less obvious when it came to
internal trafficking. For example, to date the GOB has not
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announced any findings with regard to a reported case of
child labor involving up to 100 children on an agricultural
plantation near Rangoon, despite ILO and diplomatic pressure,
and forced labor complainants in Magwe Division have suffered
judicial retribution at the hands of local authorities for
coming forward.
5. (SBU) Overall assessment: Since 2007, the GOB has done
much to improve its detection and interdiction of
cross-border TIP and has taken on a much more positive role
in protecting some of its most vulnerable citizens. While
major concerns remain, particularly concerning forced labor,
Post believes that the positive elements of the GOB's
performance on TIP issues during the reporting period should
be further encouraged by placing Burma on the Tier II Watch
List instead of Tier III, thereby offering a reward for the
improvements in performance and an incentive for the future.
6. (U) Embassy Rangoon's input for the annual Trafficking
in Persons Report follows. Answers are keyed to reftel
questions; information provided below is unclassified.
Burma's TIP Situation
A. Post met with senior officers from the Burmese Department
of Transnational Crimes (including the commanding general)
and its subordinate Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU). Post also
met with: commanders of five of the ATU's subordinate
Anti-Trafficking Task Forces (ATTFs); international NGOs that
work on TIP issues in Burma, including Save the Children and
World Vision; and UN agencies, including the International
Organization for Migration (IOM), UNICEF, and the ILO. Given
the range of sources, Post considers the following
information to be generally reliable.
B: Trafficking remained a problem internally and all along
Burma's border. Burma was primarily a source country for
men, women, and children trafficked into forced labor and
sexual exploitation. Children were trafficked to Thailand as
forced street hawkers and beggars or to China for adoption.
Women were trafficked to China as forced brides and to China,
Thailand, and Malaysia for sexual exploitation.
Additionally, men and women were trafficked to Thailand and
Malaysia for labor.
Traffickers exploited Burmese citizens from all areas of the
country, though socio-economic pressures in impoverished
areas such as the 'Dry Zone' (Magwe, Mandalay, and Sagaing
Divisions) tended to increase vulnerability to trafficking.
There were no major changes in trafficking destinations since
the last TIP Report. Brokers typically used deception rather
than force, promising good jobs to recruit victims. In a few
cases, TIP victims moved through Burma from Bangladesh to
Malaysia and from China to Thailand.
Anecdotal reporting suggested domestic economic stagnation
led to increased migration (legal and illegal) of Burmese to
regional neighbors and to destinations as distant as the
Middle East. While most of these cases entailed voluntary
migration, it is possible some travelers became TIP victims
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after arrival.
Internal TIP occurred primarily from villages to urban areas
and economic hubs for labor in industrial and agricultural
pursuits and for sex work. Children were trafficked
internally to work in shops, home industries, and fields. In
a recent example, the ILO took a complaint in December 2009
from a 12 year old boy who described being abducted in
Rangoon Division and transported to an agricultural
plantation where he was forced to work with approximately 100
other boys. ILO and post have encouraged Burmese law
enforcement and labor officials, including the Minister of
Labor, to investigate, but the GOB has not yet shared any
investigative findings.
Citizens of Burma were subject to forced labor and forced
military recruitment within Burma not only by the GOB but
also by ethnic insurgent groups in areas they controlled.
The GOB continued to step up anti-TIP efforts, an ongoing
trend over the last three years. In 2009, the GOB
investigated 155 trafficking cases that involved 37 male and
265 female victims. The GOB prosecuted 410 traffickers
during 2009. Thai authorities repatriated 132 TIP victims to
Burma and Chinese authorities repatriated an additional 293
TIP victims.
C. Burmese TIP victims were subject to forced labor and
sexual exploitation abroad. Less is known about internal
trafficking as the GOB views it as a more sensitive issue and
is reticent to discuss it. Domestic trafficking victims were
subject to forced labor conditions, sometimes at the hands of
the Burmese military.
D. Deteriorating economic conditions throughout the
reporting period drove many Burmese to migrate voluntarily,
which exposed them to domestic and international traffickers.
Young women were most vulnerable to trafficking for sex
work, domestic servitude, and forced marriage. Children were
most at risk for exploitation as street beggars and unskilled
laborers. Traffickers sought men for physically demanding
labor, namely in the fishing and construction industries.
The poor and those living in impoverished areas and border
areas were most at risk and were typically trafficked to
urban areas in Burma or to destinations in neighboring
The ILO stated that the Burmese continued to be vulnerable to
forced labor, as GOB officials, predominantly members of the
military, in all states and divisions used forced labor.
Those living in areas with the highest military presence,
i.e., in remote border areas populated by ethnic groups, were
most at risk for forced labor, including forced portering and
sentry duty.
In February 2007, the ILO and the Burmese Government signed a
one-year agreement establishing a mechanism to address forced
labor cases, including child soldier cases. The two parties
renewed this agreement in February 2009 and did so again in
January 2010. Under this agreement, the ILO has successfully
returned more than 66 child soldiers to their families, 31 of
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them in 2009. In 2009, for the first time, the Burmese
military criminally prosecuted an officer for child
recruitment and sentenced him to hard labor in a civilian
prison. The GOB also sentenced two enlisted soldiers to time
in a military prison and meted out harsher administrative
punishments than previously observed to others involved in
the case. According to UNICEF, the military also voluntarily
returned several hundred children to their families in 2009
after discovering those recruits were under age.
--E. Traffickers and their Methods: Traffickers were
primarily small, often family based, criminal groups
operating in loose association with other similar groups. In
one notable case, Burmese and Chinese law enforcement
officials dismantled a larger cross-border criminal gang
based on both sides of the Muse (Burma)-Ruili (China) border
crossing. In this operation, police on both sides of the
border arrested at total of 46 traffickers over a three-day
period in August 2009.
In many identified cases, the victim sought out a broker to
find employment or responded to a broker's pitch of a
lucrative job elsewhere in Burma or abroad. Brokers, loosely
associated and each covering specific geographic areas,
passed TIP victims on from one TIP group to the next until
reaching the destination inside Burma or a border area.
Often, traffickers used public transportation systems
(predominantly buses) to move their victims by road. In the
case of international TIP operations, brokers then smuggled
most TIP victims across Burma's porous borders with minimal
or no documentation. Few, if any, TIP victims crossed an
international border at a legal border crossing. In
cross-border cases, the final link in the chain of Burmese
brokers handed the victim over to a foreign broker for onward
movement. In some cases the victims were transported to
destinations as far away as China's coastal provinces. In
other cases the foreign broker delivered the TIP victim to a
buyer/captor within a few miles of the border.
According to Burmese ATTF officers, the monetary value of TIP
victims increased exponentially as the victims moved along
the chain. In the Burma-China context the ATTF estimated the
Burmese brokers that moved TIP victims across the border
received approximately 5,000 yuan (USD 732) per victim while
the end buyers in China paid between 35,000-42,000 yuan (USD
5,125-USD 6,151) per victim.
Reliable GOB statistics on migration are not available but
conversations with those involved in the export labor sector
indicated the flow of Burmese workers seeking employment
abroad has begun to rebound from the drop observed during the
global financial crisis when many Burmese workers returned
home after losing jobs abroad. Skilled and semi-skilled
workers continued to move overseas to fill employment
contracts in Asia and the Middle East. Post has not seen
evidence that local employment agencies (or travel agencies)
are involved in trafficking schemes. While industry contacts
acknowledged some migrant workers end up in abusive
situations, those appeared to be cases of bad employers
overseas rather than planned trafficking operations.
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Setting the Scene for Burma's Anti-TIP Efforts
--------------------------------------------- -
--A. The GOB acknowledges that trafficking is both a problem
within Burma and across its borders, and has taken legal and
educational action to combat it since 1998. The government
has yet to address the systemic political and economic
problems that cause many Burmese to seek employment in
neighboring countries. Burmese officials were more willing
to discuss TIP in the cross-border context and less willing
to have frank discussions on domestic TIP. This is
presumably due to the power structure in place where the most
powerful institution in the country, the military, is also a
main perpetrator of forced labor.
The Ministry of Labor has acknowledged that forced labor is a
problem in Burma and continues to work with the ILO to
prevent civilian perpetration of forced labor. The military
cooperated with the ILO on resolving child soldier
recruitment cases and allowed the ILO and UNICEF to provide
training designed to prevent child soldier recruitment to
military officers and civilian officials. However, in
general, the GOB remained less responsive on forced labor
cases involving the military.
--B. The GOB lead on TIP issues is the Central Body for the
Suppression of Trafficking in Persons (CBTIP), chaired by the
Minister of Home Affairs. There are 26 members. Agencies
represented in the Central Body include the police (under
Home Affairs), the Ministry of Social Welfare, and the
Department of Relief and Resettlement. Non-GOB members
include UN agencies working in Burma, international NGOs, and
local organizations. The CBTIP operates according to a
five-year National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.
Each year the CBTIP releases an annual Work Plan congruent
with the five-year plan and reflective of current priorities.
The 2009 Work Plan laid out 66 activities across five
elements and assigned roles to GOB entities, NGOs, and other
Additionally, the GOB has a Working Group on the Prevention
of Trafficking in Persons and Protection of Trafficked
Victims, chaired by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs; a
Working Group on Legal Framework and Prosecuting Measures,
chaired by the Deputy Attorney General; and a Working Group
on Repatriation, Reintegration, and Rehabilitation of
Trafficked Victims, chaired by the Deputy Minister of Social
Other agencies active in the GOB's anti-trafficking efforts
include the Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National
Races Development, the Ministry of Economic Planning and
National Development, the Attorney General, the General
Administration, the Immigration Service, the Ministry of
Labor, and the Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation, a
government-affiliated organization.
The police ATU, under the Department of Transnational Crimes,
manages the law enforcement component of the anti-TIP effort
in Burma and has also taken a lead role in education and
prevention campaigns. The ATU, with offices in Nay Pyi Taw
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and Rangoon, oversees investigative and prevention efforts by
ATTFs in locations deemed strategic in combating TIP. In
2009, the ATU formed three new ATTFs, located in Laukkai
(Shan State), Pathein (Irrawaddy Division), and Sittwe
(Rakhine State), bringing the total number of ATTFs to 22.
In total, 114 police personnel are assigned to the ATU/ATTFs
of which 28 percent are female.
The Department of Social Welfare (DSW), under the Ministry of
Social Welfare, operates shelters for TIP victims and
coordinates the limited retraining and reintegration support
available to Burmese TIP victims.
For labor issues, the GOB in 2007 established the Working
Group on Forced Labor, chaired by the Ministry of Labor.
Other members include the Ministry of Defense, the Adjutant
General's Office, the Attorney General, and the police. This
working group meets monthly and coordinates with the ILO on
outstanding labor issues. The lead agency on child soldier
recruitment is the Ministry of Defense.
The GOB accepted assistance from the UN and international
NGOs, and bilateral assistance from other countries to help
implement anti-TIP efforts. It facilitated the
anti-trafficking work of World Vision, Save the Children, the
AusAid-funded Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project
(ARTIP), United Nations Interagency Project of Trafficking
(UNIAP), UNICEF, and the International Organization for
Migration (IOM), and the ILO.
IO and INGO staff reported increased GOB cooperation and
generally agreed that GOB awareness of TIP issues continued
to increase, as did government devotion of resources to the
problem. Nonetheless, the GOB exercised tight control over
all NGO projects in the country and restricted access and
activities. These impediments continued to affect efficient
operations by program implementers and frustrated foreign
donors who were unable to monitor easily the projects they
--C. Though the GOB has substantially improved its response
to TIP over the course of the last three years, myriad
challenges remain in place. Burma lacked rule of law and the
judiciary was not independent during the reporting period.
Corruption remained a serious problem, and Burma was once
again rated among the most corrupt nations by Transparency
International (ranked 178 out of 180 countries surveyed).
While we assess that the ATU/ATTF officers tackling this
problem are generally competent and dedicated, they are few
in number and their competence is not mirrored by immigration
authorities, the general police force, the military, and the
various civilian arms of government involved. Corruption
aside, Burmese civil service salaries are extremely low.
Those who receive little pay may show little initiative and
are vulnerable to bribery.
Overall trends, however, are more positive. The GOB
increased its anti-TIP budget, which grew from USD 6,500 in
2007 to USD 1.3 million in 2008, and to USD 1.82 million in
2009. While expenditures did not match the scope of the
problem, there has been dramatic improvement. INGOs and IOs
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continued to operate and several received government approval
to expand programs to new geographic areas.
The numbers of cases investigated and prosecuted continued to
grow when measured year on year. ATU/ATTF officers
demonstrated growing sophistication in their efforts. In
meetings with Emboffs, ATTF officers described undercover
sting operations to apprehend traffickers and an instance
where the case against a trafficker was made based on
tracking money transfers. ATU/ATTF officers also appeared
well-versed in behavioral profiling and analysis in
discussions of trafficker identification. These more
sophisticated approaches demonstrated progress made from the
earlier paradigm in which the police simply responded after
the fact with very basic investigative techniques to
complaints brought by victims.
The police charged with anti-TIP roles have realized it is
better to interrupt a TIP operation than to investigate once
the criminal act has taken place, and have taken steps
accordingly. While evidentiary standards may differ from a
U.S. context, Burmese police are confident that their efforts
have stopped some exploitation that would have taken place.
They are likely correct.
Burma started from a very low point and, despite the
obstacles presented by corruption and limited available
funds, has made reasonable progress in the last three years.
--D. GOB officials have exhibited an uncharacteristic
willingness to share statistics and details of their efforts
to address TIP and related concerns. The police recognized
the difference between trafficking and human smuggling and
continued to make efforts to exclude smuggling cases from TIP
figures. Details of anti-TIP efforts received occasional
press coverage and GOB officials had regular interaction on
the topic with foreign diplomats, UN officials, and NGO staff.
GOB efforts remained hampered by technical limitations. In
one ATTF HQ visited by Emboffs, there were no computers
visible. In another instance ATTF commanders described some
of their most acute needs as: computers, software, and office
furniture. One ATTF commander described purchasing
off-the-shelf facial recognition software out of his own
pocket to further the efforts of his unit. This dearth of
technical capacity was likely the same throughout the
reporting period in all GOB entities associated with anti-TIP
efforts. Given GOB budget constraints and resources, there
undoubtedly remained areas for improvement in collecting,
analyzing, and sharing data within the GOB and with outside
The GOB does not systematically report cases of internal
forced labor and GOB officials remained unwilling to address
the topic. This probably reflected internal political
dynamics related to military control of the country.
--E. By law, Burmese citizens are obligated to apply for a
National Registration Card (NRC) upon reaching 10 years of
age. Each NRC bears a unique number as well as a photo of
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the applicant and biographic data. NRC holders must apply
for a new card upon reaching 18 years of age. The card
issued at 18 is held for life and does not require subsequent
renewal. In practice certain residents of Burma are not
considered citizens and are not entitled to NRCs or other
documents - this category includes Rohingya people living on
the Bangladesh-Burma border and some residents of Chinese and
Indian origin. Each household in Burma must have a family
registration book which contains information about residents
and sometimes, but not always, photographs of the residents.
Household registration books and NRCs are the primary
identification documents used by the GOB. A limited number
of Burmese also hold passports. Official and diplomatic
passports are issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
regular passports are issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Obtaining a passport is a notoriously slow and uncertain
process. Most residents of border areas do not hold
passports and instead cross international borders at
unofficial crossings or with informal assent by officials.
Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers
--A. Burma passed its Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law in
September 2005. The law covers sexual exploitation, forced
labor, slavery, servitude, debt bondage, and organ removal.
The law applies to internal and external trafficking, and the
Penal Code provides some additional protections. The law was
used to prosecute 410 suspected traffickers in 2009. In
addition to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, the GOB also
has several related laws, including the 2004 Mutual
Assistance in Criminal Matters Law, the 1999 Law Relating to
Overseas Employment, the 2002 Control of Money Laundering
Law, the Penal Code, and the 1948 Suppression of Corruption
Act. Although the GOB did not pass any new TIP laws in 2009,
it ratified the ASEAN Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement in
January 2009, and signed anti-TIP bilateral MOUs with
Thailand and China in April and November, 2009, respectively.
Under Burmese law, trafficking is defined as recruitment,
transportation, transfer, sale, purchase, lending, hiring,
harboring, or receipt of persons after committing any of the
following acts for the purpose of exploitation with or
without their consent: threat; use of force or other
coercion; abduction; fraud; deception; abuse of power or
position to take advantage of the vulnerability of a person
or giving or receiving money or benefit to obtain the consent
of a person having control over another person.
Military recruitment of children under 18 years is prohibited
by Armed Forces notification number 13/73 (1974).
--B Burmese law does not generally distinguish based on the
purpose of the trafficking. Punishments are based on the
age/gender of the victim rather than the type of
exploitation. The penalty for trafficking in children,
youths, and women is 10 years minimum to life imprisonment
with no parole, and also allows for a fine. The penalty for
the trafficking of adult males is five years to 10 years
maximum, and also allows for a fine. The penalty for
adopting or marrying fraudulently for the purpose of
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committing trafficking, or causing the unlawful attainment of
documents to enable a trafficked victim to depart or enter a
country is three to seven years, and allows for a fine.
Making use of a trafficking victim for pornography is
punishable with five to 10 years imprisonment and allows for
a fine. Offenders found guilty of trafficking with an
organized criminal group can be imprisoned for 10 years to
life, and may be liable for a fine.
Under the Penal Code, a life sentence can be completed after
20 years imprisonment, but under the Trafficking Law, there
is no possibility of early parole. Offenders guilty of
trafficking and another serious crime (with a sentence of
four years or more) can be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years
to a maximum of life imprisonment or a death sentence.
The police also have authority to seize the property of the
offenders. In 2009, ATTFs seized property belonging to
several traffickers. This property, as well as seized cash,
was turned over to the GOB treasury, according to ATTF
contacts, though they did not provide a valuation of the
--C. See previous section for trafficking penalties. Burma
is not a destination country for labor migrants from abroad.
--D. The prescribed penalties for rape range from a fine to
life imprisonment depending on the circumstances. The law
requires mandatory minimum sentences in cases involving
victims 14 years of age and younger. Cases involving victims
under 12 years of age require a minimum prison sentence of 10
years. Cases involving victims between 12 and 14 years of
age call for a minimum prison sentence of two years.
--E. According to the ATU, law enforcement investigated 155
trafficking cases in 2009. Of those cases, 36 cases ended in
convictions and 119 cases are currently in the trial phase.
Police officers identified 429 traffickers in 2009. Out of
the 429 traffickers, 88 have been sentenced under Burma's TIP
law while 322 face pending cases. The remaining 19
traffickers were fugitives at the end of 2009. The convicted
traffickers received the following sentences:
Prison Sentence Number of Traffickers
20 years 22
15 years 6
14 years 1
13 years 2
12 years 15
10 years 17
5 years 2
Burmese authorities reported that no traffickers were
punished with suspended sentences or fines during the
reporting period.
The GOB assisted 302 victims in 2009, of whom 62 were
children (defined in GOB statistics as individuals under 16
years of age). The nature of the TIP cases in 2009 varied:
25 cases dealt with forced prostitution and sexual
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exploitation; 104 cases dealt with forced marriage (this
category includes many of the victims classified as
children); 16 cases dealt with forced labor; and 10 cases
dealt with forced adoption.
--F. In collaboration with the Australian-funded Asia
Regional Trafficking in Persons Program (ARTIP), the police
conducted Basic and Advanced Training workshops in 2009 for
GOB officials. The training curriculum centered on
investigation techniques and international best practices.
The Central Police Training Institute in Mandalay continued
to include trafficking in its curriculum for incoming cadets
and as a component of in-service police training. ARTIP
itself conducted four training sessions during the reporting
period and provided training to 95 government officials (66
Burmese and 29 Chinese) assigned to anti-TIP roles in Burma
or in neighboring Chinese territory. ARTIP funding from
AusAid will cease in 2011.
ILO remained active in working against forced labor and
child-soldier recruitment. During the reporting period the
ILO team in Burma held: two training courses for military
officers on best recruitment practices; a training course for
deputy township judges and another for senior township
judges; a course on human rights and international law for
civil servants; and awareness raising seminars in Karen
State, Shan State, Rakhine State, and Magwe Division. The
GOB also agreed to the ILO's longstanding request to publish
a brochure describing forced labor and avenues of redress.
The GOB and ILO are currently engaged in negotiations over
UNICEF continued to educate Burmese military and civilian
officials on topics related to child soldier recruitment.
During the reporting period, UNICEF facilitated four training
sessions for GOB audiences. A total of 110 commissioned and
non-commissioned officers participated in the courses, as did
32 civilian officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs,
Labor, Home Affairs, and Social Welfare. UNICEF officials
were particularly pleased to note signs that the Ministry of
Defense had begun to incorporate elements of UNICEF training
into its own curricula. In addition to work on prevention,
UNICEF remained active in provision of support to released
child-soldiers. This assistance, in the form of education
and health support, vocational training, and distribution of
basic necessities, reached (or will reach in the cases where
family tracing is ongoing) 104 released child-soldiers and
their families.
Officials from the Committee Against the Recruitment of
Minors conducted awareness raising sessions at military
training depots that the GOB reports reached over 150,000
individuals (civilians, military, and civil service) in 2009.
Also per GOB reporting, the police held more than 1,500
advocacy meetings related to the dangers of child recruitment
and reached over 100,000 civilians as well as almost 1,700
--G. Cooperation with Other Governments: Burma cooperates
with ASEAN countries under the ASEAN Declaration on
Trafficking in Persons; with Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos in
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the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project (ARTIP); and
with China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in the
Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking
Building on efforts begun in 2007 to improve international
cooperation, in 2009 the Burmese Government concluded
negotiations with Thailand and China on bilateral MOUs to
establish formal policies dealing with cross-border
trafficking. The GOB also pressed Indonesia and Malaysia to
join cooperative regional efforts.
China: On November 11, 2009, Burma's Deputy Minister for Home
Affairs and China's Vice Minister for the Ministry of Public
Security signed an anti-TIP MOU in Beijing. The GOB
maintains a dialogue on trafficking with the Chinese Ministry
of Public Security, as well as with Chinese police,
narcotics, and border control officials. In July 2007, the
Burmese and Chinese Governments, working with UN assistance,
established Bilateral Liaison Offices (BLO) in Muse, Burma,
and Ruili, China. In December 2008, the Burmese, with
Chinese assistance, opened an additional BLO in Lwe Je,
Kachin State. These BLOs, staffed by officials on both sides
who speak both Burmese and Chinese, share information about
trafficking and enable Burmese and Chinese officials to work
together on international trafficking cases. Burma and China
have agreed to open a third BLO at the Chin Shwe Haw, Burma,
and Ming Ting, China, border crossing in 2010. In 2009, the
GOB jointly investigated a number of TIP cases with the
Chinese authorities - including Chinese and Burmese officers
accompanying their counterparts on investigations in both
nations, and China repatriated 293 Burmese trafficking
victims to Burma.
Thailand: On April 24, 2009, the GOB and the Thai Government
signed an MOU on joint TIP cooperation. They subsequently
formed a joint Plan of Action Working Group comprised of
representatives from the relevant ministries of both nations
to ensure effective implementation of the MOU. In August
2009, the two nations adopted a three-year MOU Plan of Action
covering prevention, protection, prosecution, repatriation,
and reintegration. The Thai Government repatriated 132
Burmese TIP victims in 2009.
--H. Burma's Extradition Act dates back to 1903; the GOB has
not negotiated any recent extradition treaties. In 2009, the
GOB did not send Burmese nationals to other countries for
prosecution. The GOB does, however, accept the extradition
of Burmese nationals apprehended for TIP related offenses in
other countries. ATU contacts reported that the GOB accepted
the extradition of 81 TIP offenders from China during
2006-2009. The ATU has not specified the fate of the
extradited traffickers; we are unsure if they are in prison
or free.
--I. In 2009, two government officials, one police officer
and one immigration officer, were prosecuted for their
involvement in trafficking cases. The GOB has not released
details of the cases. The GOB does not routinely release
information about officials charged with corruption or
trafficking related offenses. Most outside observers assess
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that corruption is pervasive in Burma. It is likely that
some corruption relates to domestic and international
trafficking. Police may also self-limit their investigations
if they lead toward well-connected individuals.
The military holds almost all power in Burma. The police are
not in a position to investigate or prosecute cases of
military perpetrated forced labor or child soldier
recruitment absent assent from high ranking military
In 2009, the Burmese military prosecuted an army captain for
his role in child soldier recruitment. The court, presumably
a court martial, convicted the officer, expelled him from the
army, and sentenced him to one year of hard labor in a
civilian prison. This is the first known instance of a
soldier being criminally prosecuted and sentenced to jail
time for child soldier recruitment. Courts sentenced two
enlisted soldiers to shorter terms in military prisons for
their role in the same case and two non-commissioned officers
received administrative punishments for their involvement.
This is a significant development and far exceeds past GOB
action involving child soldier recruitment.
In addition to the above-mentioned case, Post estimates that
an additional 25 military personnel have received
administrative sanctions including: official reprimand, loss
of pay, and loss of seniority for promotion and retirement
ILO statistics on the release of child soldiers were
previously mentioned. UNICEF also reported on GOB efforts,
previously unknown, to screen potential recruits. Based on
access to recruitment centers during joint training sessions,
UNICEF staff assessed that military recruiters turned away
significant numbers of potential enlistees for presenting
counterfeit documentation of age.
--J. On paper the GOB has a robust plan to deal with
officials involved in TIP. GOB laws and regulations
prescribe the following steps for public officials suspected
of trafficking:
- Immediate suspension of suspected official;
- A Departmental Inquiry Body conducts an internal
- If the Departmental Inquiry Body finds the official guilty,
it sends the case to the District Court for prosecution, per
the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law;
- If found guilty, the official is dismissed from government
service and punished according to applicable law.
Additionally, any public official who demands or accepts
money and property for himself or for another carrying out an
investigation, prosecution, and adjudication under this law
will be imprisoned for three to seven years, and may be
liable for a fine. Reality does not likely reflect the steps
laid out on paper. Corruption and the unequal power
structure in place ensure that not all officials are equally
subject to legal sanction.
--K. Burma does not contribute troops to international
peacekeeping efforts.
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--L. Burmese police reported that foreigners sexually
exploited children in Burma during the reporting period. The
GOB has not released information on incidence levels but
conversations with Burmese police officers indicated the
problem was relatively uncommon and typically involved a
foreigner that spent extended periods of time living in Burma
rather than the "sex tourist" phenomenon observed in some
neighboring countries. Burmese police contacts reported that
perpetrators tended to be European and Australian and added
that no Amcits have been identified as perpetrators.
GOB officials reported active cooperation with Australian law
enforcement on interdicting the travel of known pedophiles.
Australian police reportedly notified Burmese counterparts if
a known sex offender was enroute to Burma, giving Burmese
authorities the opportunity to refuse the traveler entry or
work with ASEAN neighbors to deny airline boarding at a
transit stop.
There is no information available that indicates Burmese
nationals are perpetrators of child sex tourism.
The Burmese Penal Code does not contain specific
extraterritorial amendments such as the PROTECT Act.
However, Burmese police asserted that the Burmese Penal Code
applies to all Burmese citizens regardless of their location.
In recent meetings, ATU officers expressed frustration that
some EU citizen pedophiles have been, to the best of the
GOB's knowledge, released without punishment after Burma
deported them to their home country.
Protection and Assistance to Victims
-- A. Police officers interview rescued and repatriated TIP
victims and then pass them to the Department of Social
Welfare (DSW). The DSW houses victims in one of eight
residential vocational training centers. While at the DSW
shelters, victims participate in a mandatory two-week program
that contains elements of counseling, skills training,
trafficking awareness education, and health screening. The
Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation, Myanmar Maternal and
Child Welfare Association, and other government-sponsored
organizations assist with services at these shelters.
While TIP victims participate in the mandatory two-week
program, DSW officials conduct family tracing in order to
locate an adult relative, a parent when possible, into whose
custody DSW will release the victim. DSW will not release
victims on their own recognizance, even if they are adults,
once the mandatory two-week course is complete. As family
tracing is often a long process, made more so by frequent
victim unwillingness to share accurate biographical/address
data with DSW officials, many victims stay in the DSW
shelters for longer than the mandated two weeks. GOB
estimates placed the average stay at one month. This may be
an optimistic estimate.
Medical treatment in the shelters is provided with the
consent of the victims. HIV testing is encouraged but
RANGOON 00000089 014.2 OF 019
reportedly not mandatory for TIP victims. A number of
victims enter DSW custody while pregnant. DSW officials
described provision of pre- and ante-natal care as a specific
strain on shelter resources.
--B. The victim care facilities described above are not
specialized. They can be dual-use or multi-use facilities
used to care for other wards of the state (orphans, juvenile
offenders, etc). The GOB does not provide specialized care
or assistance for male, female, or child victims. All
shelters are operated by the GOB. NGOs were not able to
operate TIP victim shelters during the reporting period.
--C. During their stay in DSW shelters, victims benefit from
legal, medical, and psychological services at a level
comparable to what is available to the general population in
Burma. There is room for improvement, beginning with the
model that treats adult TIP victims as if they were juveniles
who must be released to an adult family member, but there are
no indications that the GOB withholds or provides diminished
services based on an individual's TIP victim status. While
in the DSW shelters, victims are sheltered, fed, clothed, and
benefit from what counseling and training is available.
There appear to be few trained social workers employed in the
DSW system and even fewer psychologists or psychiatrists.
Some victims benefit from support by NGOs after their release
from DSW shelters, including: educational assistance,
livelihood support, grants/loans, and business training. The
GOB does not fund foreign or local NGOs but does contribute
in-kind services such as venues for training, transportation
support, and assistance from government officials.
During 2009, the GOB provided approximately USD 1.82 million
for trafficking in persons-related issues.
-- D. The GOB provides immediate support to foreign TIP
victims but seeks to repatriate them to their home countries
rather than provide long term assistance. The Burmese
Government does not provide temporary or permanent residence
status to foreign TIP victims.
-- E. The GOB does not provide long-term housing benefits
beyond the time victims spend in the DSW shelters. DSW,
other GOB entities, and NGOs are sometimes able to provide
additional assistance to victims rebuilding their lives.
Funding for all providers is quite limited and unmet needs
-- F. The Burmese police transfer TIP victims to the DSW
shelters described above.
-- G. The GOB identified 302 TIP victims in 2009. The types
of TIP victims identified by the GOB during the reporting
period included: victims of forced marriage (67 percent),
forced prostitution (16 percent), forced labor (10 percent),
and forced adoption (6 percent).
-- H. Personnel from the 22 ATTFs and officials from
immigration, the general police force, social welfare, and
customs, received training on proactive victim identification
RANGOON 00000089 015.2 OF 019
and referral systems, organized and sponsored by ARTIP
between 2005--2009.
Prostitution is illegal under Burmese law and there are no
systems in place to screen sex-workers to identify TIP
-- I. The Trafficking in Persons Law provides protection for
trafficking victims' rights. Victims are not jailed, fined,
or prosecuted for other violations. However, TIP victims
remanded to DSW custody are not free to leave on their own
volition and, as noted, social welfare officials will only
release them from custody to an adult family member.
In forced labor cases, the law does not protect victims from
countersuit by officials. During this reporting period,
complainants in a series of forced labor cases in Magwe
Division suffered harassment and judicial retribution by
local authorities for their role in reporting forced labor
perpetrated by GOB officials.
--J. The government continued to encourage internationally
trafficked victims to assist in investigations and
prosecutions. Police request assistance from victims during
their stay at repatriation centers and DSW shelters. Victims
are not obligated to cooperate with law enforcement
authorities. Victims also have the right to file civil suits
and seek legal action against traffickers. Under Burmese
law, no one may impede or obstruct the victim's case. The
victim can give testimony without directly confronting the
Burmese law provides for the provision of financial
compensation to TIP victims from the disposal of seized
assets. The GOB has not developed a formal compensation
scheme based on this legal foundation and we do not believe
any victims received such compensation during the reporting
There are no legal restrictions preventing a trafficking
victim from seeking employment while involved in an ongoing
-- K. GOB officials benefit from previously described
training provided by IOs, NGOs, and GOB trainers. This
includes TIP victim identification curricula for police
officers. Some police officers have benefitted from
'child-friendly' interview techniques training and at least
one ATTF office was upgraded to include a 'child-friendly'
interview room.
Post is unaware of the methods in place at Burmese embassies
and consulates abroad to assist Burmese TIP victims.
-- L. The Burmese Government provides in-kind assistance to
repatriated TIP victims but is not typically able to provide
meaningful financial assistance. The GOB provides shelter,
medical care, social counseling, information on STDs,
vocational training, reintegration service, and TIP awareness
training to repatriated victims. The GOB also provides
housing, food, clothing, and basic necessities to shelter
RANGOON 00000089 016.2 OF 019
residents. Local and international NGOs support the
government in the provision of these and other services.
Once a victim departs from a shelter, the government and NGOs
provide limited reintegration assistance - including some
income generation assistance and vocational training. The
government is legally bound to protect TIP victims but we are
not aware of any cases during the reporting period in which
victims required protection from retribution from traffickers.
-- M. UNIAP, UNICEF, World Vision, and Save the Children
worked with the GOB and with local NGOs and community-based
organizations to assist TIP victims during the reporting
period. They conducted research on TIP in Burma, defrayed
the cost of family tracing, conducted family assessments,
provided lifestyle and skills training, and provided capital
for income generation activities. INGOs and UN agencies
reported reasonable levels of cooperation and communication
with GOB contacts working on international TIP issues.
Access remained problematic in some regions and authorities
were much less inclined to cooperate to prevent and remedy
domestic TIP cases than cross-border ones. The GOB remained
generally willing to accept international support related to
anti-TIP, and shared information on its investigations and
The ILO Liaison Office in Burma works with the Burmese
Government to address the systemic forced labor practiced by
government and military officials. Compared to 2008, the ILO
Liaison Officer had improved access to GOB officials during
the reporting period. For the first time, the ILO Liaison
Officer, along with ILO headquarters representatives, met
with the three Burmese major generals responsible for
recruitment, military strength, and military training. In
January 2010, the ILO and GOB extended the Supplementary
Understanding on Forced Labor (SUP) for an additional year.
The ILO continued to receive forced labor complaints,
primarily child soldier cases, and forward them to the
Working Group on Labor for action. While the ILO reported
progress in 2009, it remained concerned over judicial
retribution against a group of forced labor complainants from
Magwe Division. Local authorities sought revenge against
farmers who brought a series of linked cases to the ILO.
Local officials prosecuted and jailed a number of the
complainants, their lawyer, and their associates. The
central government in Nay Pyi Taw remained unwilling or
unable to intervene with local authorities in Magwe to stop
the politically motivated harassment of the forced labor
complainants during the reporting period. There were
indications in early 2010 that the GOB would move to free
some of the farmers.
As detailed above, in 2009 the Burmese authorities for the
first time ever criminally punished military officials
involved in underage recruitment.
-- A. The Burmese police conducted extensive
RANGOON 00000089 017.2 OF 019
awareness-raising campaigns during the reporting period.
Among the highlights of these campaigns as reported by the
ATU: 27 anti-TIP billboards created, 48,675 flyers
distributed, and 12,000 video clips disseminated with a total
of 53,219 people reached. The Women's Affairs Federation and
National Committee for Women's Affairs also conducted an
undetermined number of educational sessions for women around
the country, which include discussion about the risks of
trafficking. The targets of GOB campaigns were predominantly
potential victims.
The GOB participated in MTV's End Exploitation and
Trafficking (EXIT) campaign, funded by USAID. Senior Burmese
police officials, including Police Colonel Sit Aye, Head of
Department for Transnational Crimes, together with Embassy
Rangoon Charge d'Affaires, spoke at the Rangoon premiere of
the EXIT campaign's film Traffic - a series of vignettes that
provide examples of TIP. Sit Aye publicly acknowledged the
problem of trafficking and pledged continued GOB support for
prevention and prosecution efforts. The Burmese-language
version of the film, narrated by a local rock star,
subsequently aired multiple times on Burmese state-run TV.
-B. Immigration and police offices continued to monitor
border checkpoints and were briefed on their role in
combating TIP. The ATU has posted ATTF officers at
identified "hotspots" along the border and within Burma. In
July 2007, the GOB, with UN assistance, established its first
Border Liaison Office (BLO) in Muse, near the China border.
In December 2008, the GOB opened its second BLO in Lwe Je,
Kachin State. The BLOs facilitate information sharing
between the Burmese and Chinese authorities on cross-border
trafficking. The Thai-Burma MOU signed during the reporting
period provides for the creation of TIP coordinating offices
on their shared border.
--C. The Central Body for Suppression of Trafficking in
Persons is the GOB's leading coordination body at the
national level. The National Task Force on Anti-Trafficking
in Persons helps coordinate actiQties among various domestic
and international organizations. Additionally, the GOB has
three working groups under the Central Body that work on
trafficking issues:
- The Working Group on Prevention of Trafficking in Persons
Protection of Trafficked Victims, headed by the Deputy
Minister of Home Affairs and including 24 members from GOB
ministries and NGOs;
- The Working Group on Legal Framework and Prosecuting
headed by the Attorney General; and
- The Working Group on Repatriation, Reintegration, and
Rehabilitation of Trafficked Victims, headed by the Minister
of Social Welfare.
Additionally, there are several other organizations that
assist with trafficking issues:
- The Myanmar National Committee for Women's Affairs (MNCWA),
chaired by the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and
RANGOON 00000089 018.2 OF 019
Resettlement, which addresses women's issues;
- The Myanmar National Working Committee for Women's Affairs
(MNWCWA), chaired by the Deputy Minister, consists of 30
members from related ministries and NGOs;
- The Human Trafficking Working Group, consisting of UN
agencies and international NGOs, which meets quarterly to
coordinate, communicate and plan Anti-TIP efforts;
- The Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against
Trafficking (COMMIT) Task Force, the national group tasked
with implementation of the COMMIT Plan of Action developed in
2004 with the six Greater Mekong Sub-region countries; and
- The Task Force on Repatriation, comprised of the Director
General of the Ministry of Social Welfare, international
NGOs, and UN agencies, which works specifically on
repatriation efforts.
--D. The GOB developed a National Action Plan (NAP) in 1998,
and revised it in 2004 under the COMMIT plan of action. A
committee created to bring the NAP in line with the 2005
Anti-Trafficking Law was formed in April 2006. In February
2008, the GOB signed and approved a new five-year National
Action Plan for 2007-2011. According to officials, the NAP
prioritizes victim protection and establishes GOB plans for
policy and cooperation, prevention, prosecution, protection,
and capacity building.
--E. We are unaware of specific GOB measures to reduce the
demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period.
Prostitution remained illegal in 2009.
--F. We are unaware of specific GOB measure to reduce the
participation in child sex tourism by Burmese nationals.
Given Burma's stagnant economy and GOB restrictions on
issuing passports, very few Burmese nationals travel abroad
as tourists.
--G. Not applicable. Burma does not contribute troops to
international peacekeeping efforts.
--A. The GOB actively engaged with other governments,
international organizations, NGOs, and local organizations on
TIP issues. Please see details of partnerships in preceding
responses. The GOB does devote resources to TIP. The
overall amounts remain small by Western standards, as is true
of most GOB resource allocations benefiting average citizens.
(Burma spends less than 1 percent of GDP on education and
health combined.) However, year on year increases since 2007
show a 27,900 percent increase in GOB investment in fighting
TIP. The 2008 to 2009 increase in spending was 40 percent.
--B. Burma does not provide assistance to other countries.
Child Soldiers
--A. As detailed in the annual Human Rights Report and
previously in this submission, the forcible recruitment of
child-soldiers remained a problem in GOB controlled areas of
the country throughout the reporting period. Ethnic
RANGOON 00000089 019.2 OF 019
insurgent groups also engaged in child soldier recruitment.
The magnitude of this problem is difficult to assess because
many areas, GOB controlled and otherwise, are off-limits to
foreigners. It is likely that child soldiers were direct
participants in hostilities.
GOB-ILO and GOB-UNICEF engagement on this topic and steps
taken to remedy the problem are previously detailed.
One noteworthy example of child-soldier recruitment in a
non-GOB context is a recent case that involved a Burmese
national employee of an INGO who allegedly participated in
the 2009 trafficking of five youths, at least two of whom
were under 18, to an ethnic-insurgent army. The
perpetrator's motives in this case were reportedly political
rather than financial, highlighting how continued tensions
between the GOB and ethnic groups fuel the demand for
soldiers, child or adult, on all sides.
6. (U) Embassy point of contact for TIP issues is Marc
Porter, Economic Officer. He is available at tel:
95-1-650-006, ext. 4227, fax: 95-1-650-306. Combined embassy
hours spent compiling information for this report: 108
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