Burma: human trafficking

Burma is a source and transit country for human trafficking. Burma’s military regime is the main perpetrator of human trafficking abuses both within the country and abroad.

Burmese men, women, and children are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation in Thailand, the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia, Bangladesh, South Korea, Macau, and Pakistan. Children are trafficked to Thailand for forced labor as beggars. Reports have indicated a trend in trafficking women and girls as young as fourteen to China to work in the sex industry or to become brides to Chinese men. While there are no reliable estimates on the number of Burmese who are trafficked, most observers believe that the number of victims is at least several thousand per year.

Burma is a transit country for Bangladeshi victims trafficked through Burma destined for Malaysia, and Chinese victims trafficked through Burma to Thailand.

Internal Trafficking
Burma has internal trafficking from rural areas to border areas with China and Thailand, particularly areas with trucking routes, mining areas, military bases, fishing villages, and military camps. Children are trafficked internally for forced labor in agriculture and small-scale industries or as child soldiers. Trafficking within Burma continues to be a significant problem primarily due to the military’s unlawful conscription of child soldiers and the fact that it is the main perpetrator of forced labor inside the country.

Military and civilian officials have for years systematically used men, women, and children for forced labor for the development of infrastructure and state-run agricultural and commercial ventures, as well as forced portering for the military. Some observers estimate that thousands of children, including boys as young as 11 years old, are forced to serve in Burma’s national army as desertions of men in the army continue. Government authorities use various forms of coercion, including threats of financial and physical harm, to compel households to provide forced labor. Those living in areas with the highest military presence, including remote border areas populated by ethnic groups, are most at risk for forced labor. The regime’s treatment of ethnic minorities makes them particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

One study found an acute problem in Chin State where 92 percent of over 600 households surveyed reported at least one episode of a household member subjected to forced labor, including being forced to porter military supplies, sweep for landmines, or build roads, with the Burmese military imposing two-thirds of these forced labor demands.

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