Challenges Facing Survivors
The US Department of State in June released its annual report on Trafficking in Persons. The Myanmar government was given the State Department’s lowest ranking due to its poor record to combat trafficking. Myanmar now is ranked – along with North Korea, South Sudan, China, and Syria – among those doing the least to stop the forced exploitation of women and men.
One of the major reasons cited in the report for the worsening situation last year was military operations that forced the dislocation of many of the Rohingya minority. At least 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine State in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh and other countries. Both the United Nations and the US Government have judged the military operations as “ethnic cleansing”. Many of those fleeing faced horrific exploitation – raped by Burmese troops, trafficked into the sex trade in India, or forced to work in jade mines and other industries.
Aside from the violence and conflict in Rakhine State, the Myanmar government did identify more trafficking victims than the previous year. However, trafficking remains a severe problem. The military still routinely coerces men, but also women and children, to act as modern-day slaves, cooking, cleaning, carrying loads, and building infrastructure projects, particularly in ethnic conflict areas. Children are deployed to front lines as combatants by both the military and ethnic armed groups. Myanmar police reported 289 sex and labor trafficking victims in 2017, including 54 men and 235 women and girls. Also, police reported 44 cases of trafficking within Myanmar. However, the incidence of children being drafted into Burmese armed forces or ethnic armed groups as “child soldiers” remains unimproved.