Cablegate: Burmese Government Reports to the Usg On

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The GOB is prepared to act on human
trafficking, but has not put together programs that will
fully treat the problem. In a report presented to the
Embassy in August, the GOB acknowledges the problem facing
Burma and lays out the legislative, enforcement, training,
and preventive measures it has taken to deal with
trafficking. Unfortunately, the report is incomplete, with
little discussion of such key issues as the GOB's funding of
anti-trafficking activities, its cooperation with destination
countries, and its handling of repatriated victims of
trafficking. Our conclusion: our message on trafficking has
gotten through. The GOB is concerned and is prepared to act,
but has not put together programs that are anywhere near
commensurate with the scale of the problem here. End Summary.

Political Commitment

2. (SBU) According to the GOB report, Burma is committed to
dealing with trafficking. It established the Myanmar
National Committee on Women's Affairs (MNCWA) in 1996
following the Fourth World Conference on Women and assigned
that committee responsibility for trafficking issues in
Burma. The Committee's patron is Secretary One Khin Nyunt,
whose wife also serves as head of the Committee's Education
Group. MNCWA working committees have also been organized at
the state, division, district, and township levels.
According to the report, there are now 324 MNCWA township
working committees in Burma; i.e., one in each of the
nation's townships.

National Plan of Action and National Initiative

3. (SBU) MNCWA also adopted in 1997 a National Plan of Action
for Trafficking in Women and Children. That plan calls for
an assessment of trafficking in Burma, formation of a
national task force, a program of national workshops,
training for concerned officials, rehabilitation of victims
of trafficking, and the distribution of educational materials
on trafficking. In 2000, MNCWA adopted a National Initiative
on the Trafficking of Women and Children, which includes
preventive, protection, enforcement, prosecution, and
reintegration strategies. Copies of both documents are
attached to the government's report.

Legal Framework

4. (SBU) There are no specific human trafficking laws in
Burma, according to the report. However, there are laws
which can be applied in cases of trafficking. These include
the 1993 Child Law, which includes provisions against the
sale, abuse, or exploitation of children; the 1949
Suppression of Prostitution Act, which prohibits any efforts
to force or entice a woman into prostitution; and the Penal
Code which forbids kidnapping and any effort to "convey any
person beyond the limits of the Union of Myanmar without that
person's consent." The report also notes that the Supreme
Court issued Directive No. 1/01 on February 2, 2001 regarding
punishments for human traffickers. Copies of the relevant
laws are attached to the report.

Monitoring the Borders

5. (SBU) Burma's immigration and emigration controls are
tight, according to the report. On the Thai border alone,
there are 23 checkpoints run by the Police, Immigration
Supervisory Board, and the Customs Department. During the
period May 2000 to June 2002, the report states, 22,208 men,
women, and children were prevented from crossing the border
"in order to prevent them from becoming involved in nefarious
activities, including sexual exploitation." Approximately
9,000 of these people were women. According to the report,
no legal action was taken against any of those who were
turned back; rather, they were counseled on the dangers of
illegally working abroad and sent back to their homes. The
report also notes that women between the age of 16 to 25 are
absolutely prohibited from crossing the border unless
accompanied by a legal guardian.

Law Enforcement

6. (SBU) Many traffickers have also received long sentences.
According to the report, between 1999 and July 2002, Burma's
courts have given 104 human traffickers prison sentences
ranging from 3 to 14 years.

Preventive Measures

7. (SBU) The GOB has put a special focus on education,
according to the report. Between 1999 and June 2002, 10,822
village-level seminars were held by MNCWA and/or NGOs to
educate poor families to the dangers of trafficking. In Mon
State, eastern Shan State, and Kayin State, these seminars
were carried out in cooperation with the United Nations
Inter-Agency Project on Trafficking in Women and Children in
the Mekong Sub-region (UN-IAP).
Protection of Victims
8. (SBU) The report asserts that victims of trafficking are
not treated as criminals. It also states that there are
rehabilitation centers, and Vocational Training Centers for
Women in Yangon, Mandalay, Myeik, and Kengtung, and Women's
Development Centers in Yangon and Mandalay. According to the
report, legal has been taken only against those found guilty
of trafficking.

Root Causes

9. (SBU) The report argues that the main causes of
trafficking are poverty and ignorance and marshals all of the
government's statistics on development to demonstrate concern
for those issues. In particular, it notes that the
government has established twelve training centers since 1992
in towns adjacent to Burma's borders. Altogether, these
centers have provided vocational training to 10,128 girls and
women over the past decade.

International Cooperation

10. (SBU) Burma is a signatory to the 1950 Convention for the
Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and Exploitation of the
Prostitution of Others. It is also a party to the Convention
on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and to
the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, the
GOB has become a regular participant in regional and
bilateral meetings on trafficking (15 in all) since 1997 and
has cooperated with the UN-IAP on programs to raise awareness
and build NGO and government capacity in regard to
trafficking problems.

Non-Governmental Organizations

11. (SBU) According to the report, Burma has enlisted the
support of NGOs like the Myanmar Red Cross Society, the
Auxiliary Fire Brigade, the Myanmar Maternal and Child
Welfare Association, and the Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs
Association in the fight against trafficking. As an example,
it notes that the Maternal and Child Welfare Association has
implemented a literacy campaign for 410,000 women in remote
areas, conducted vocational classes, and extended
micro-credit loans amounting to nearly 150 million kyat over
the past decade.

Embassy Assessment of the Report

12. (SBU) The MOFA report is obviously intended to put the
best face on the GOB's counter-trafficking efforts and is,
unfortunately, packed with a variety of facts and figures
from GOB programs that are, at best, tangentially related to
the trafficking. It is also short of some key statistics.
While it provides more information than needed on the number
of pencils and notebooks distributed under various programs,
it does not provide any significant information on the
resources that the GOB has specifically allocated to its
program on human trafficking. It also provides little
information regarding the number of trafficking victims it
has actually assisted or repatriated from neighboring
countries. In support of its claim that the Government is
committed to the international fight against trafficking, it
details the international meetings it has attended and
agreements it has signed. However, it fails to provide any
significant information on its cooperation with Thailand or
other destination countries. Similarly, it provides a lot of
very specific information on government-affiliated NGO
programs for women, but does not even hint at any
coordination with the international NGOs in Burma that are
working on the issue.

13. (SBU) Oddly, the report gives only passing mention to
what we consider the most effective anti-trafficking activity
in the country, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project
(UN-IAP) on Trafficking in Women and Children in the Mekong
Sub-region. This small but active project has pushed hard
for GOB inter-agency coordination and action on trafficking
issues, and has created a program for multi-sectoral
"service-provider" training (i.e., police, immigration, law,
and social welfare workers, among others). Since August
2001, it has held three training workshops for 100 key
personnel from the police, immigration, health, and education
services. The UN-IAP has also actively sought improved
interaction among international NGOs, GOB personnel, regime
affiliated NGOs, and others that need to be involved to
effectively address human trafficking challenges in Burma.

14. (SBU) In spite of these weaknesses, it is clear that the
Government has focused more attention on trafficking in
persons this year than it has in the past. In what appears
to be a direct response to the Embassy's Trafficking in
Persons Report, the Government met with Embassy officials
earlier this year to determine what is needed to comply with
TIPS criteria. Since these meetings, the Government has
initiated an information campaign to highlight the perils of
trafficking. An MNCWA delegation, headed by Secretary One
General Khin Nyunt's wife, has also conducted highly
publicized visits to border regions to meet with women in an
effort to discourage them from falling victim to unscrupulous
traffickers. The state-controlled press is also running
almost daily stories on trafficking victims that authorities
have intercepted, counseled, and returned to their families.

15. (SBU) These activities are a step in the right direction.
They demonstrate that the Government is aware of the need to
act against human trafficking, and they serve to heighten
public awareness of the potential dangers of trafficking.
However, they need to be further reinforced by effective
action specifically targeted at traffickers. Right now, many
of the trafficking "busts" described in the newspapers appear
to be of men and women who are simply attempting to migrate
(albeit illegally) to Thailand, not trafficking victims.
Reportedly, only a fraction of the illegal Burmese migrants
to Thailand are trafficking victims, i.e., people who have
been deceived, coerced, or forced into working conditions
they did not choose. The rest are simply happy to be there,
and out of Burma, whatever their employment status.

16. (SBU) Finally, the government's heavy-handed approach to
interdicting all illegal migrants has the potential to
actually drive people into the hands of traffickers. This is
particularly true of the government's ban on exit visas for
women from 16 to 25 who are not accompanied by their legal
guardian. For such women, the only recourse is often a

17. (SBU) In short, it is apparent that the government is
making an effort to address concerns about human trafficking.
MNCWA's national action plan is a good plan. It is based on
international models and we will continue to push the
government to implement it. However, the government's
approach does have some rough edges. It needs to be more
tightly focused on traffickers specifically. Other aspects
of the approach need to be beefed up, particularly in regard
to cooperation with destination countries and the
repatriation and reintegration of victims. Fortunately,
UN-IAP and a few international NGOs are already working here
and should prove important allies in bringing the government
closer to a complete and effective response to its current
problems with trafficking in persons.

© Scoop Media

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