Cablegate: Burma: Third Annual Tip Report
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 RANGOON 000309
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, G/TIP, G, INL, DRL, IWI, AND EAP/RSP
PACOM FOR FPA
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USAID
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC ELAB KCRM KFRD KWMN PHUM PREF PREL SMIG BM
SUBJECT: BURMA: THIRD ANNUAL TIP REPORT
REF: STATE 22225
1. (SBU) The following report responds to the checklist
provided in reftel requesting information on trafficking in
persons activities in Burma. The report will also be
forwarded to EAP/BCLTV in Word format.
Overview of Country's Activities -
A. Burma is a country of origin for international trafficking
of men, women, and children, primarily for sexual
exploitation but also for labor exploitation. Internal
trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor also
occurs throughout the country. There are no reliable
estimates of the magnitude of the international or internal
trafficking. The government does not effectively collect
such information and, due to strict government controls over
information flow, there are no independent assessments of the
problem. The government estimates that only 46 women were
trafficked to Thailand in 2002, for instance, while other
sources generally estimate that there are thousands of
trafficking victims to Thailand each year. Sources for
information on trafficking include government affiliated
non-governmental organizations, international
non-governmental organizations, UN offices in Burma, and
international non-governmental organizations in Thailand.
Women and girls are the primary international trafficking and
internal sex trafficking victims while internal forced labor
trafficking appears to include victims of all ages and both
B. Internationally, Burmese men, women, and children are
trafficked primarily to Thailand but also reportedly to
China, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.
Internally, sex trafficking of women and girls occurs from
villages throughout the country to urban centers and to other
centers for prostitution such as trucking crossroads, fishing
villages, border towns, and mining and military camps.
C. There has been no discernible change in the direction or
extent of trafficking in recent years, although, as
mentioned, there is no effective monitoring of the problem.
D. The Myanmar National Working Committee on Women's Affairs
(MNCWA), a self-sustaining (does not receive government
funding) government organization, in conjunction with the UN
Interagency Project on Trafficking in the Sub-Mekong Region
(UN-IAP) plans to collect data on trafficking in selected
townships this year. The results of this survey are not
available for this year's report. On the extent of forced
labor in the country, the International Labor Office believes
that it still occurs wherever the military has a presence,
but there is no accurate estimate of the number of victims
E. Burma is not a destination country for trafficking in
F. Poverty is the driving force behind trafficking in
persons for sex and exploitative labor practices in Burma.
Victims are either attempting to make a better living for
themselves or, more commonly, attempting to make money to
provide a better standard of living to their family. Young
girls in families are the most common targets. The
traffickers at the village level are often older women who
provide "a connection" for the local girls. Once out of the
village the girls may pass through several brokers before
they end up in a brothel in another part of Burma or in a
foreign country (most frequently Thailand). Victims are
generally trafficked by the cheapest means available, in the
back of trucks or in buses. Because of tight controls over
travel near border areas, victims would typically require
false documentation or bribes to make it through military,
immigration, and customs check-points, or through the many
"unofficial" border crossings controlled by cease-fire and
G. During the year, the government has greatly increased its
commitment to combating sex trafficking, focusing on media
awareness campaigns and the arrest and prosecution of
traffickers. On the issue of forced labor, however, the
government has continued to do the minimal necessary to avoid
the implementation of sanctions by ILO member organizations.
A particularly sensitive aspect of the military's continuing
use of forced labor is the use of forcibly conscripted child
soldiers, a practice that has been highlighted in the press,
which continues but is difficult to quantify, and which the
government denies. There have been no prosecutions to our
knowledge of government officials linked to TIP or against
Army personnel involved in forced labor. It is very
difficult to identify any funding specifically allocated for
TIP. The government generally tasks groups to achieve policy
initiatives without providing sufficient funding. For
instance, the most active government organization on sexual
trafficking, the MNCWA, is "self-sustaining," meaning it
depends on donations and volunteers to implement its
H. Yes, there is undoubtedly some complicity of government
officials in sexual trafficking, although it is probably
limited to local or regional officials attempting to
supplement meager salaries by turning a blind eye to
trafficking activities. There are some reports that Military
Intelligence (the internal intelligence service) controls
some brothels and, by extension, would be involved in
trafficking. We do not have reliable information on the
extent to which this is happening. Military officials and
township officials are directly involved in trafficking for
forced labor inside the country. This practice remains
common throughout the country, but is worst in the border
areas. We are aware of no prosecutions of government
officials for either sex or forced labor trafficking.
I. The government's ability to address sex trafficking is
limited by the lack of funding allocated for social programs.
Burma is among the lowest ranked countries in the world for
per capita expenditures on health and education services, for
instance. The government over the past 14 years has
drastically cut funding for social services in order to fund
military priorities. This trend continues still. Also,
because of the government's serious economic mismanagement,
poverty and widespread corruption have become the norm.
Economic desperation is continually cited as the root cause
of sex trafficking in the country; people do things they
would not have considered if they had better economic
A. Yes, the government this year has begun to acknowledge
that sex trafficking is a serious problem. However, the
government has not publicly acknowledged, especially inside
the country, that forced labor continues to be a serious
B. The Ministry of Home Affairs is the lead agency in
anti-trafficking actions for sexual trafficking with support
from the Ministries of Social Welfare, Immigration, and
Labor, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General. The
Labor Ministry is the lead agency on forced labor.
C. Yes, the MNCWA has conducted seminars, produced and shown
videotapes on television, and developed radio programs
highlighting the perils of trafficking. On forced labor, the
government has posted in public places directives issued in
1999 and 2000 prohibiting the use of forced labor. There has
been no assessment of the effectiveness of the sexual
trafficking awareness campaign. Forced labor appears to be
continuing unabated in spite of the posting of the directives
D. Although the MNCWA and other social services
organizations have programs to provide women with income
generating skills and to encourage women to take a greater
role in the community, these programs are dwarfed by the
desperate conditions of most women in the country. Given the
government's absence of funding for these programs (they are
largely "self-sustaining"), they reach only a small
percentage of the women in need.
E. Prevention has been the focus of the government's efforts
this year, with public awareness campaigns, workshops, and
township "talks." There is no specific budget for these
activities, however, they are just included in the policy
programming of relevant Ministries and organizations within
F. The government attempts to control "civil society" and
ensure that all citizens support the policies of the regime.
Local township organizations are extensions of the military
junta and use a combination of a spoils system and
intimidation to ensure support for government policies. As a
result, the citizenry generally attempts to minimize its
contacts with these organizations. On the issue of
trafficking, citizens are encouraged to attend workshops and
talks in order to show support for the government policies.
Because these government programs are self-sustaining,
citizens are, at least in some cases, also required to make
cash "donations" to support the programs.
G. The borders with neighboring countries are porous. While
the government controls numerous official border crossings,
there are probably hundreds of other crossings under the
control of cease-fire groups, anti-government groups, and
smugglers. We are not aware of any monitoring of immigration
or emigration patterns, or the analysis of this data for
patterns of trafficking.
H. Yes, there is a multi-agency task force under the
guidance of the Home Ministry to address sexual trafficking
in persons and a Convention 29 Implementation Committee under
the Ministry of Labor to address forced labor. (See
Prevention - B.) There is no public corruption task force.
I. The MNCWA participates in regional and world conferences
on women's issues, including trafficking. However, there has
not been any regional coordination on specific interventions
to prevent, monitor, or control sex trafficking.
J. Yes, there is a national plan to address sexual
trafficking in persons, which has been disseminated by hand.
The MNCWA developed the plan in coordination with the
relevant ministries including Social Welfare, Immigration,
and Home Affairs. The plan was not coordinated with
international NGO's working on TIP. There is no national
plan to address the issue of forced labor.
K. The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Brigadier General
Thura Myint Maung, is the Chairman of the Human Trafficking
Prevention Work Committee. The Minister of Labor is the
person responsible for addressing forced labor.
Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers:
A. No, there is no law specifically prohibiting trafficking
in persons. As was the case last year, the laws used to
prosecute human traffickers are a combination of laws against
kidnapping and prostitution. The government is considering
whether to adopt new legislation specifically addressing
trafficking in persons but a decision is still pending. The
Attorney General's office said it believes existing laws are
adequate to prosecute traffickers while the Ministry of Home
Affairs stated a new law may be necessary.
B. Sentences for trafficking in persons have ranged from
five to twelve years, with most cases carrying a sentence of
seven years imprisonment.
C. Penalties for prostitution are up to ten years
imprisonment, sexual assault of an adult is up to two years,
and sexual assault of a minor is up to ten years.
D. The government states that it has prosecuted 93 cases
against human traffickers. It states that it has arrested
160 trafficking brokers. It has provided the Embassy and
G/TIP with extracts of 30 of the prosecutions. Some of these
prosecutions appear to be against traffickers while others
appear to be against migrant smugglers. There have been no
prosecutions relating to forced labor.
E. Human trafficking for sexual exploitation appears to be
primarily small-scale operations using village contacts that
feed into more established trafficking "brokers." There is
no evidence of travel or tourism agencies being involved in
the trafficking. We have no information on where profits
from this kind of trafficking end up. Human trafficking
relating to forced labor is directed by the military and
supported by township officials who arrange to meet the
F. The prosecutions of traffickers that we have reviewed
indicate that most arrests occur as the result of "tip-offs"
to local police rather than investigations. While the
government maintains extensive and intrusive controls over
the population, trafficking in humans is not the target of
G. The government does not provide this specialized training
but the UN-IAP has conducted workshops that touch on this
aspect of trafficking.
H. No, there is no evidence that the government is
cooperating with other governments on the investigation and
prosecution of trafficking cases. When G/TIP and Emboff
recommended greater cooperation with Thailand on this issue,
government officials were non-committal.
I. No, there have been no extraditions of human traffickers
to other countries. Burmese law prevents the extradition of
nationals except under exceptional circumstances.
J/K. Given the pervasive government control that exists over
the activities of all citizens, there has to be some
tolerance and/or collusion of government officials in sexual
human trafficking in order for the practice to continue on a
large scale. The National Committee Against Human
Trafficking told G/TIP and Emboff, however, that there have
been no arrests or prosecutions of government officials
involved in trafficking. On forced labor, the military is
the driving force behind the practice, and there have been no
related arrests or prosecutions.
L. No, the government has not signed any of these
Protection and Assistance to Victims
A. The MNCWA and the Ministry of Social Welfare assist
returning trafficking victims. The assistance largely
consists of counseling and job training at care centers
before the women are returned to their families. The MNCWA
states that in 2002 a total of 15 victims were counseled at
these facilities before being returned to their families,
while 122 victims were transferred directly back to their
B. No, the government does not provide funding to foreign or
domestic NGOs for services to victims. Foreign NGOs have
provided some services and support to the government and
local NGOs beginning this year. For the first time,
international NGOs have coordinated a limited number of
victim repatriations with the government and local NGOs and
provided public awareness materials to the government
(pamphlets to the Ministry of Home Affairs at its request).
C. There appears to be a growing understanding of the need
to protect victims, especially those returning from
international trafficking. We have heard of no returning
victims being arrested or jailed.
D. There has not been much focus on this aspect of sexual
human trafficking in public awareness campaigns to date and
we know of no case in which the victims have filed suit
against traffickers. In the area of forced labor, victims do
not have an adequate mechanism for lodging complaints or
E. We do not have any information on the level of protection
the government can or does provide witnesses in trafficking
F. The UN-IAP has established an excellent workshop for
government officials on the recognition and provision of
assistance to victims of sexual human trafficking. The
workshops are intended to be self-sustaining, with government
officials becoming the workshop trainers. The workshops
appear to be very effective and are being offered to an
ever-expanding number of officials who interface with the
trafficking issue (police, social workers, immigration
officials, etc.). The training has not been provided to
Burmese Embassy staff in other countries and we have no
information that these staff have instructions on engaging
with NGOs working with trafficking victims.
G/H. See "A" and "B" above; also "Overview - I."
2. (U) The Embassy point of contact on TIP is Poloff John
Haynes, tel. 95-1-256-020, fax 95-1-256-018, e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org. Time spent on preparing this report: 24
hours by an FS-2.