The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report for 2009
Source: Asia Sentinel, 19 June 2009
Asian values apparently don’t protecting individuals from exploitation.
Asian governments variously proclaim commitment to Asian values, Confucian, Islamic or Marxist principles or the rule of statute law. Or all of them. But when it comes to human rights, to enforcing laws intended to protect individuals and families alike from exploitation, greed, slavery and discrimination somehow the values are forgotten in favor of money or convenience.
The latest report by the US State Department on Human Trafficking makes dismal reading, particularly for those countries which have the financial and governmental resources to do something about it which must include Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau.
Of course the governments can argue that a nation which brought the world the Iraq war and Guantanamo has no business lecturing others on human rights. But whatever they think of the US, citizens of Asian countries have every right to know about the abuses committed in their name by governments turning a blind eye to gross ill-treatment of fellow humans, many of which are already illegal and others should be.
The report is particularly harsh on Malaysia which has been relegated to Tier 3, the lowest category in a system which ranks countries according to the scale of the trafficking problems and the efforts of the government to address it. In Malaysia it seems that even follow Malaysians are the victims, not just unfortunates from poorer countries. Thus it notes reports of “women and girls of indigenous groups” being trafficked for sex. “Indigenous” clearly refers to non-Malay Bumiputeras and Orang Asli. So it is okay traffic so long as the victims are foreigners or non-Muslim?
It further notes the “credible reports” of Malaysian immigration officials being involved in trafficking in Burmese refugees from immigration detention centers. Although such claims have been made by NGOs and documented in TV programs, and in a US Senate report, they have been persistently denied by the Malaysian government. No immigration officials have been arrested or prosecuted, let alone convicted by a politicized court system, for involvement in trafficking.
The report further notes the continued abuse of foreign workers who were subject to bondage and coercion as a result of failure to pay their wages, surrender of passports and other measures which reduced them to a condition of forced labor. Although ministers spoke out against trafficking and labor abuses, in reality little was done.
While government inertia may be part of the problem in Malaysia as elsewhere, local observers note that a political class which is itself so corrupt has limited ability to address the corruption of officials whether immigration officers actively exploiting detained migrants or being paid to turn a blind eye to illegal labor practices.