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.[1] 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.[2] However, the incidence of children being drafted into Burmese armed forces or ethnic armed groups as “child soldiers” remains unimproved.[3]

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Survivors in Myanmar, regardless of where they are from or what type of trafficking they suffered, are traumatized.[4] They often need medical treatment for their injuries or illness, safe shelters, and mental healing such as counseling to recover from their traumatic experiences.[5] As they recover, they also need to figure out a way to make a living. This often requires occupational training plus the opportunity to work. Economic migrants often end up being trafficked. The fundamental reason for their original attempted migration was to seek a job abroad because none was available in their own community.[6] Finding a safe workplace is, therefore, critical to preventing them from falling victim to trafficking again.

Equally important is their family care. Survivors often suffer deteriorated health and are unable to work in the short term.[7] Other family members must be able to work to support the whole household.[8] So, the family’s need for a livelihood becomes a matter of urgency.

Long-term monitoring is helpful since a newcomer to any new workplace needs an adaptation period. Early intervention to address any workplace issues can prevent survivors of trauma from losing their job before the problem gets serious,[9] thereby helping them establish a self-sustainable life after trafficking.

Establishing a stable, supportive working environment that continues the healing process for trauma survivors is core to The Market Project’s mission and work. Known as a “trauma-informed” workplace, TMP trains its managers and intentionally integrates into the business principles such as safety, trust, peer support, collaboration, and empowerment.

We will apply our training curriculum to the team leaders and supervisors in our future business in Myanmar.  Our vision is to see men and women survivors of trafficking in Myanmar find hope and flourish through safe, dignity-affirming and healing work.

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  1. United States Department of State, June 2018, Trafficking in Persons Report, p. 116.
  2. USDOS 2018, p. 118.
  3. United States Department of State, June 2018, Trafficking in Persons Report, p. 116.
  4. Surtees, Rebecca, April 2017, A Guidebook for the Greater Mekong Sub-region: Supporting the Reintegration of Trafficked Persons, pp. 32-33.
  5. Ibid. pp. 28-31. Also, ibid. pp. 36-41.
  6. Ibid. p. 16. Surtees stresses some of survivors’ needs are “linked to their pre-trafficking vulnerabilities and needs, problems that often had contributed to being trafficked”. Also, ibid. pp. 51-56.
  7. Ibid. p. 51.
  8. Ibid. pp. 87-91.
  9. Ibid. pp. 87-91

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