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Human Trafficking has Worsened in Burma Again

In the 2018 Trafficking in Persons, or TIP, Report, Burma was downgraded to Tier 3 for the second time in three years. It had been on a Tier 2 Watch List in 2017.

Tier 1 is for countries that are meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons set forth in the TVPA [Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000]. Tier 2 countries have not met the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so. Tier 2 Watch List is for countries that are making significant efforts but deserve closer scrutiny. Finally, Tier 3 is for countries that have not met the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

A senior State Department official said, “We have tracked the situation of trafficking in Burma for a long time and had concerns about it for a long time. In this past year, we assessed that the government does not fully meet the minimum standards and is not making significant efforts.”

The U.S. official went on to say, “Our concerns include that Burmese Armed Forces operations in Rakhine State dislocated hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and members of other ethnic groups, many of whom were exploited throughout the region as a result.”

In addition, the unlawful recruitment of child soldiers by the Burmese Armed Forces and ethnic armed groups continued. Authorities punished former child soldiers for desertion, alleged fraud, and defamation, and authorities also continue to prevent the United Nations from playing a constructive role in eradicating the recruitment and use of children by ethnic armed groups.

The TIP Report found that the Burmese military continued to subject adults and children to forced labor. And Burmese government officials were reportedly complicit in both sex and labor trafficking.

The United States urges Burma to implement all the recommendations in the TIP Report, especially those related to ceasing all unlawful recruitment and use of children in the armed forces and allowing the UN to conduct this work with ethnic armed groups. Burma should immediately and unconditionally release Aung Ko Htwe,[Ahn Koh Twey] who was arrested in August 2017 for speaking out about his experience as a child soldier.

The U.S. also calls on the Burmese government to end its officials' involvement in sex trafficking and forced labor and to hold such officials criminally accountable for these crimes.

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