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Cablegate: Burma: Fourth 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 06 RANGOON 000310

SIPDIS

STATE FOR USAID, EAP/BCLTV, EAP/RSP, G/TIP, G, INL, DRL,
PRM, IWI
USPACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KCRM PHUM KWMN SMIG KFRD ASEC PREF ELAB BM
SUBJECT: BURMA: FOURTH ANNUAL TIP REPORT

REF: STATE 07869

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The following report responds to the
checklist provided in reftel requesting information on
trafficking in persons activities in Burma from March 2003 to
March 2004. The report will also be forwarded by e-mail to
EAP/BCLTV in MS Word format. END SUMMARY.

BEGIN REPORT

Overview of Country's Activities:

A. Burma is a country of origin for international trafficking
of men, women, and children, for sexual and labor
exploitation. Internal trafficking for sexual exploitation
and forced labor also occurs. 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 has no estimate for the number of
people trafficked in 2003. However, other sources generally
estimate that there are thousands of trafficking victims each
year, primarily destined for Thailand. Sources for
information on trafficking include the Government of Burma,
government affiliated non-governmental organizations,
international non-governmental organizations, diplomatic
missions, and UN offices in Burma. Women and girls are the
primary international trafficking and internal trafficking
victims while internal forced labor appears to include
victims of all ages and both sexes.

B. Internationally, Burmese men, women, and children are
trafficked primarily to Thailand for factory, fishing, and
sex industry work, but also to China, Bangladesh, Taiwan,
India, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Macao, and Japan.
Internally, 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 camps.

C. In 2003 the United States imposed an import ban on
Burmese products, which played a role in the closure of
numerous garment factories. Several NGOs expressed concerns
that former garment workers, especially young women, may be
at an increased risk of trafficking. There has been no
discernible change in the direction or extent of trafficking
in recent years, although, although there is no effective
monitoring of the problem.

D. An international NGO is conducting a limited survey on
women trafficked into the sex industry and expects to make
conclusions in 2004. Also, in May of 2004 the UN and the GOB
plan to create a joint trafficking in persons database.
However, the GOB has not planned to carry out any surveys to
document the nature and extent of trafficking in Burma. Post
is unaware of reports from any surveys conducted last year.
The International Labor Organization confided that forced
labor still occurs in ethnic areas where the military has an
operational presence, but there is no accurate estimate of
the number of victims per year.

E. Burma is a destination point for possibly hundreds of
Chinese and number of East European females working as
prostitutes in brothels and casinos in Special Regions #1, 2,
and 4 along the China/Burma border in Shan State. These
women, some of whom actually believe they are in China,
provide sexual services primarily to Chinese businessmen and
tourists. Post has no information whether these women have
been trafficked, or if they came specifically seeking work in
the sex industry.

F. Poverty is the driving force behind trafficking in
persons in Burma. It is often the case of voluntary economic
migrants being targeted and exploited by "brokers" at the
Burmese border, or upon arrival in the country of
destination. Girls in poor families are the most at risk.
Also at risk are boys and members of minority ethnic groups.
The traffickers at the village level are often women
returning from working in Thai factories or the sex industry
who provide a "connection" for the local girls. Traffickers
may promise a restaurant job or educational opportunities,
but once over the border the victim ends up in the
entertainment or sex industry, or in an abusive domestic job.
Victims are generally trafficked by the cheapest means
available, in the back of trucks or in buses. Because of
tight travel controls near border areas, victims would
typically require false documentation such as fake family
registration certificates, or bribes to make it through
military, immigration, and customs check-points, or through
the many "unofficial" border crossings controlled by
cease-fire and anti-government groups. Several sources
reported that once across the border the victims are often
turned over to Thai police who use official vehicles to move
the victims further into the Thailand.

G. During the year, international agencies and NGOs credited
the government for demonstrating political will to combat
trafficking and for improvement in cooperation with UN
agencies and NGOs. GOB efforts include a national seminar in
May 2003 on trafficking, media awareness campaigns, and the
arrest and prosecution of 518 traffickers and smugglers since
July 2002. The GOB set up a 40-person Anti-trafficking
national police unit in March 2004, co-located with
Australian government funded Asia Regional Cooperation to
Prevent People Trafficking (ARCPPT). On the issue of forced
labor, however, the government has continued to do the
minimal necessary to avoid the implementation of measures by
ILO member states. Although the numbers are difficult to
quantify, the military continues to forcibly conscript
soldiers, including children. However, the government no
longer denies the existence of the child soldier problem. In
two recent cases, the ILO was able to obtain the release of
two underage soldiers. The GOB wrote a letter to the ILO
acknowledging the existence of the two child soldiers. In
January 2004, the GOB has established a national-level
working group to address the issue of recruiting under-age
soldiers for the Burmese army. There have been no
prosecutions to our knowledge of government officials linked
to TIP or of Army personnel involved in forced labor. The
GOB will not 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
trafficking, the Myanmar National Committee on Women's
Affairs (MNCWA), depends wholly on donations and volunteers
to implement its programs.

H. The Home Affairs Ministry states there is no complicity
of GOB officials in trafficking. However, NGOs report that
government officials are complicit in trafficking, although
it appears limited to local or regional officials who are
supplementing meager salaries by taking payment for turning a
blind eye to trafficking activities. According to one
report, Village and Township-level Peace and Development
Councils (local variant of the SPDC) earn money from
trafficking, and also from skimming remittances from migrants
working in Thailand. There are some reports that the Office
of the Chief of Military Intelligence (OCMI, the internal
intelligence service) controls some brothels, hotels, and
karaoke bars, and, by extension, may be involved in
trafficking. We do not have reliable information on the
extent to which this is happening. There have been no
reports of punitive measures taken against these individuals.
Military officials and township officials are reported to be
directly involved in trafficking for forced labor inside the
country. This practice is worst in the border areas. There
have been no prosecutions of government officials for either
trafficking or forced labor.

I. The GOB set up a repatriation center on the Burma-Thai
border, which has processed 10,427 illegal migrants returning
from Thailand since September 2001. The GOB also provided
reintegration support to six trafficked girls repatriated
from Thailand and to three trafficked girls repatriated from
Malaysia. However, the government's ability to address
trafficking in persons 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, education, and social welfare services. The
government over the past 15 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.

Prevention:

A. Yes, the government publicly acknowledges that
trafficking in persons is a serious problem in Burma. The
government has also indirectly acknowledged that forced labor
is a serious problem by allowing the presence of the ILO in
Burma. The government has publicly acknowledged it has a
problem with recruiting child soldiers, and in January 2004
announced the establishment of a ministerial-level Committee
for the Prevention of the Recruitment of Child Soldiers to
address the problem. However, the efficacy of this committee
has not yet been demonstrated.

B. The Ministry of Home Affairs is the lead agency in
anti-trafficking actions for trafficking in persons 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. The Ministry of Home Affairs says it educated 86,744
people on trafficking between September 2001 and August 2003.
The Social Welfare Bureau's six-person Mobile Training Team
trains State and Township-level social workers on trafficking
prevention. Also, 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
trafficking awareness campaign. Forced labor appears to be
continuing in the ethnic areas in spite of the posting of the
directives against it, though in the one region for which we
do have statistics, the data shows forced labor has declined
in two out of three townships.

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. Due to budget constraints, the GOB does not support its
prevention activities very well. For example, the six-person
Social Welfare Bureau's Mobile Training Team is limited in
funding and is unable to spend much time out in the provinces
conducting training. The Bureau plans to split the team into
two groups of three in increase its coverage this year.

F. Government ministries have an increasingly good
relationship with UN agencies and NGOs that are concerned
with trafficking issues. The UN and NGO "Working Group on
Trafficking" meets quarterly, and in January 2004 discussed
ways with the GOB to improve collaboration on GOB/NGO roles
in repatriation, and to include the NGOs from the start of a
repatriation case. However, the government attempts to
control "civil society" organizations 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.

G. The GOB does not adequately monitor its borders, and Post
is not aware of any monitoring of immigration or emigration
patterns, or the analysis of such data for patterns of
trafficking. 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. The Ministry of Home
Affairs told Emboff it has pointed out to the Immigration
Ministry that overly tight exit controls on females force
them to use illegal means to migrate and eliminates legal
protections that a passport could give them.
H. Yes, there is a multi-agency task force under the
guidance of the Ministry of Home Affairs to address
trafficking in persons and a Convention 29 Implementation
Committee under the Ministry of Labor to address forced
labor. (See Prevention - "B.") There is a public corruption
task force, but it is not allowed to investigate public
officials unless directed to do so by OCMI. In October 2003
the GOB contacted a Rangoon-based Australian Aid organization
(Asia Regional Cooperation to Prevent People Trafficking) to
set up a 40-person Anti-Trafficking Police Unit under the
Director General of the Burmese National Police Force. The
unit is scheduled to open in April of 2004 and will have a
40-person office in Rangoon, 6 Task Forces, and 10 provincial
units.

I. The MNCWA participates in regional and world conferences
on women's issues, including trafficking. The Ministry of
Foreign Affairs is in the final stages of drafting an MOU
with the Thai government on repatriation. However, there has
not been any regional coordination on specific interventions
to prevent, monitor, or control sex trafficking.

J. The MNCWA developed a national plan to address
trafficking in 2002 in coordination with the relevant
ministries including Social Welfare, Immigration, and Home
Affairs. The plan was coordinated with UNIAP. There is no
national plan to address the issue of forced labor, though
one was prepared in 2003 by the ILO. That plan was shelved
following a May 2003 attack by government thugs on the leader
of the pro-democracy opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, and her
convoy.

K. The Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation (MWAF) and the
Preventive Committee for Trafficking in Person are
responsible for developing anti-Trafficking programs within
the GOB. 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. There currently 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. However, the Attorney
General, with the help of the Ministry of Home Affairs, has
drafted a new law specifically targeting traffickers,
although it has not yet been promulgated.

B. Sentences for trafficking in persons have traditionally
ranged up to 10 years with hard labor, with a recent increase
of the maximum penalty to life in prison. Most cases carry a
sentence of five or more year's imprisonment. 136 cases
received the maximum sentence between July 2002 and December
2003. Traffickers who have been sentenced are serving their
terms.

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 294 cases
against "540 brokers and traffickers" (304 male and 236
female) since July 2002. 1,475 "victims" were identified
(795 males 650 females). The Ministry of Home Affairs admits
that some of those cases involve human smugglers and not
traffickers. There have been no prosecutions relating to
forced labor.

E. Human traffickers appear to be primarily free-lance
small-scale operators using village contacts that feed into
more established trafficking "brokers." There is no evidence
of travel or tourism agencies being involved in the
trafficking. There are multiple reports that low-level and
regional government official are involved in trafficking (see
Overview section answer "H"). Except for the report of
Village and Township-level Peace and Development Councils
earning money from trafficking, and also from skimming
remittances from migrants working in Thailand, Post has no
other information on the destination of trafficking profits.
However, the new Police Task Force will have a money
laundering unit set up to investigate this issue. Human
trafficking relating to forced labor is directed by the
military and supported by township and regional military
officials who arrange to meet the military's localized labor
requirements.
F. The prosecutions of traffickers that we have reviewed
indicate that most arrests occur as the result of "tip-offs"
from the MNCWA 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 these efforts.

G. The Social Welfare Bureau Mobile Training Teams,
comprised of Deputy Director-level staff from the Attorney
General's office, Ministry of Education, Department of Social
Welfare, Myanmar Women Affairs Federation, Department of
Immigration, and the Police Force have trained 300
township-level officials in 10 states. Also, AusAid will
train the new Police Task Force. UNIAP and Save the Children
(UK) conduct workshops that touch on this aspect of
trafficking.

H. There is some sharing of information between the Ministry
of Home Affairs and the Thai Government on some trafficking
issues. However, there is not yet cooperation in
investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases. The Social
Welfare Bureau told Emboff that MOFA is currently preparing
an MOU on cooperation with Thailand (see Prevention answer
"I"). The Ministry of Labor signed an MOU on "Cooperation in
Employment" with the Thai Ministry of Labor in June 2003,
part of which is aimed at suppressing trafficking to
Thailand. The Ministry of Labor is proposing procedures to
implement local level cross-border cooperation called for in
the MOU.

I. No, there have been no extradition 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, some tolerance and/or
collusion of low-level provincial government officials in
human trafficking is assumed in order for the practice to
continue on a large scale (see Overview section answer "H").
On forced labor, the military is the driving force behind the
practice, and there have been no related arrests or
prosecutions.

L. The government signed ILO convention 29 on Forced and
Compulsory Labor in 1955. Burma is considering becoming
party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the
Rights of the Child (CRC) on the sale of children, child
prostitution, and child pornography, but has not signed yet.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the "Protocol to
Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons,
Especially Women and Children" has been approved by the
cabinet and is awaiting the Foreign Minister's signature.

Protection and Assistance to Victims:

A. The Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation (MWAF) and the
Social Welfare Department jointly assisted trafficking
victims with counseling and job training at care centers
before the women are returned to their families. The MWAF
states that in 2003 a total of 150 victims were counseled at
these facilities. HIV/AIDS screening is available, though
there have been a few reported cases of involuntary testing.

B. No, the government does not provide funding to foreign or
domestic NGOs for services to victims. Foreign NGOs continue
to provide some services and support to the government and
local NGOs beginning for the second year. International
NGOs have coordinated a limited number of victim
repatriations with the government and local NGOs and continue
provided public awareness materials to the government.

C. There is a screening process in place to transfer victims
detained in Thailand to an NGO based in Burma that does
provide long-term care. There are no reports of victims
being arrested inside Burma.
D. There is a good understanding of the need to protect
victims, especially those returning from international
trafficking. We have heard of no returning victims being
arrested or jailed.

E. There has not been much focus on this aspect of 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 seeking
prosecutions.

F. We do not have any information on the level of protection
the government can or does provide witnesses in trafficking
cases.

G. The Social Welfare Bureau's Mobile Training Teams provide
training to government officials on the recognition and
provision of assistance to victims of human trafficking.
Post is unable to determine if training has 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. However, the
Burmese embassy in Bangkok does provide consular and
investigative assistance to trafficking victims brought to
its attention.

H. The GOB provides medical assistance and shelter to
trafficking victims who are identified as victims during
repatriation from Thailand. See "A" and "B" above; also
"Overview - I."

I. Save the Children UK and World Vision work with
trafficking victims in Burma.

END REPORT

2. (U) The Embassy point of contact on TIP is Poloff David
Juras, tel. 95-1-379-880, x4259, fax 95-1-256-018, e-mail
jurasdj@state.gov. Time spent on preparing this report: 1
hour by an FS-MC, 2 hours by and FS-OC, 4 hours by an FS-2,
40 hours by an FS-3, and 11 hours by an FSN-6.

McMullen

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