Fortify Rights Calls on US Government to Downgrade Burma’s Trafficking Rating

A human rights organization, Fortify Rights, based in South East Asia has called upon the US Department of State to assign Burma a ‘Tier-3’ ranking on its upcoming Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. Burma is currently ranked as a Tier-2 country on the US Department of State watch list.

Fortify Rights said that TIP rankings should be “objective and based on actions and efforts to combat human trafficking,” and that Burma was failing in its obligations to police human trafficking.

Fortify Rights also urged for similar rankings to be placed on Burma’s neighbors: Thailand and Malaysia.

The Executive Director of Fortify Rights, Matthew Smith, testified in a Subcommittee hearing at the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs this week, making the case that the three South East Asian nations were failing in their obligations to combat human trafficking.

“Each of these countries demonstrated a callous disregard for survivors of trafficking last year. Governments aren’t impervious to TIP rankings. The process can work when it’s objective, and this year will be particularly important for Southeast Asia,” Mr Smith said.

The damning testimony of Mr Smith follows a blistering 2015 report by the human rights watchdog into the trafficking of Rohingya civilians fleeing Burma. The Fortify Rights report said that thousands of Rohingya were the victims of human trafficking and implicated Burmese military personnel in the trafficking trade.

Fortify Rights said it hoped that the election of the National League of Democracy into government would improve the country’s horrific track record on human rights, but did so with a word of caution:

“We’re hopeful about the incoming NLD government, but the Myanmar Army remains Southeast Asia’s biggest perpetrator of forced labor,” Mr Smith said. “The Myanmar military should be given 12 months at Tier-3 to prove it’s willing to work closely with the new government to end human trafficking.”

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