Rights group links human trafficking to weak governance

Mass graves of trafficked humans were found in Wang Kelian, near the Malaysia-Thailand border, in 2015. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Human rights group Tenaganita has cited weak governance as one of the reasons for a reported increase in incidents of human trafficking into Malaysia across its northern border.

The group’s executive director, Glorene Das, said a monitoring mechanism was not in place to ensure the effective enforcement of laws, policies and procedures.

Even if there was proper monitoring, she told FMT, authorities needed to have the integrity to resist the temptation to take bribes.

She said it had been shown that processes at the border were plagued with heavy corruption.

“This became glaringly clear with the exposé of Wang Kelian,” she said, referring to the site where mass graves of trafficked humans were discovered in 2015.

Recently, a Thai police official was quoted as saying he expected incidents of human trafficking across the border to reach a record high this year because of the demand for cheap labour in Malaysia.

Thai police have so far this year rescued 974 trafficking victims, most of whom are from Myanmar. The previous annual high of 982 was recorded in 2015.

Mana Kleebsattabudh, deputy commander of Thailand’s anti-trafficking police, said most of the rescued victims were recruited by middlemen and agencies to work in Malaysian factories.

Das attributed the high local demand for illegal foreign workers to reported delays in the processing of approvals for workers’ permits.

Agents, syndicates and traffickers were simply taking advantage of the situation, she added.

“Why is this form of trafficking happening so blatantly at our doorstep? The answer is simple. It’s all rooted in our policies, in corruption and in weak governance,” she said.

She acknowledged that the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Council was doing its best to address the issue.

She added, however, that Malaysia still lacked a comprehensive policy on labour migration. “The non-existence of such a policy encourages trafficking.”