Human trafficking: Malaysia in danger of tipping the balance

Human trafficking: Malaysia in danger of tipping the balance

Economic sanctions loom if Malaysia does not improve in the human trafficking rankings.

MALAYSIA worked hard to step up its efforts in combating human trafficking after it dropped to Tier 3 in the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report released by the US State Department in 2009, and managed to move up to Tier 2 in the following year. Tier 3 refers to the ranking for countries that are not fully complying or not making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards.

If you take the chance for them to live and work on their own, they become better witnesses and the prosecution number goes up.

However, we have been stuck on Tier 2 Watch List for the last four years, and are in danger of being auto-downgraded back to Tier 3 if we don't show increasing efforts to eliminate human trafficking in the country next year. A Tier 3 ranking puts Malaysia at risk of economic sanctions. Sunday Star spoke to Luis CdeBaca, the ambassador-at-large of the US State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons when he was in town recently.

> Can Malaysia still avoid an auto-downgrade?

The best thing any country can do when the TIP report comes out is to look at the recom­mendations, which are based on international norms and provide a measure of what we need to achieve.

The auto-downgrade issue is an important one and something that is facing us when we look at next year's TIP report, but human trafficking in Malaysia is not about the auto-downgrade or the TIP report.

The trafficking situation in Malaysia is about what is facing the people here, whether they are ordinary folks looking for different opportunities or girls who are trapped in the brothels here or foreign workers who come over looking for a better life and find themselves trapped and exploited here. That is trafficking in Malaysia. The US TIP report is only a snapshot, a diagnosis of the problem.

So, next year's TIP report, while important, is not what we are really here about. What we are really here for is to see how the US can work with Malaysia to ensure that victims can have a good outcome and the perpetrators can be caught and put into prison for their crime.

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