Washington Post questions Malaysia’s human trafficking ranking


WASHINGTON: Malaysia does not deserve to be on Tier 2 of the United States’ trafficking in persons watch list, the Washington Post says.

In an editorial on the US State Department’s study into human trafficking around the globe released last week, the Post says many questions remain about Malaysia’s fight against human trafficking.

Saying the State Department report shows “another shocking account of human rights abuses around the world”, it gives several examples of these.

It says the annual report is not only an annual chiding for countries that fail to crack down on abuse within their borders, but also an annual opportunity to demand that those countries change.

“So it is important that the report reflect reality.

“Last year, when Malaysia was promoted from the lowest-level Tier 3 to the Tier 2 watch list, human rights advocates said politics had snuck their way into the report; Malaysia is regarded as an important ally by the Obama administration. This year, the country stayed where last year’s rankings put it.”

The Post says that despite a reformed victim protection system, migrant workers continue to suffer on palm oil plantations and in electronics factories and that though trafficking convictions increased last year, investigations and prosecutions decreased.

“And no one has been held accountable for the mass graves found last year on the Thai border. Malaysia did not deserve a promotion last year, and it does not deserve this year to keep a prize it did not earn,” says the editorial.

The Post also takes the State Department to task for promoting Thailand to Tier 2 on the list.

“Thailand’s military government — which the United States seems keen on courting — has taken steps to clean up the country’s fishing and seafood industry. Laws are stricter, and investigations, prosecutions and convictions of traffickers have increased. But for victims, the situation on the ground seems as dire as ever. Inspection systems that look good in theory don’t work in practice: Fishing vessels are still filled with people working against their will, and government officials remain complicit in the crimes.”

The Post welcomes the demotion of Myanmar (which it continues to call Burma) and Uzbekistan to Tier 3.

It’s encouraging, it says, to see the report recognise the plight of the 1 million Rohingya in Myanmar.

“Members of the ethnic minority group were driven from their homes in 2012, and last year many died at sea trying to escape persecution. Today, they are among the most vulnerable to the sex and labour trafficking that plagues Burma even under its new democratic leadership. Relegating the country to Tier 3 was the right choice — and one that should inspire Burma to tackle abuse too long ignored. “

The Post concludes by saying countries have little incentive to curb trafficking when they are not held to account. By censuring those that condone abuse, it says, the State Department’s rankings give delinquent governments a reason to try.

It reminds the State Department: “It’s crucial that the reports get it right.”