Quote attributable to Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch (#HRW) on #Malaysia’s anti-trafficking efforts reflected in the Malaysia chapter of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons 2017 report (#TIPReport).

For the second year in a row, the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report has whitewashed Malaysia’s poor to mediocre record on combating human trafficking. The reality is that Malaysia officials identify very few victims compared to the numbers present in Malaysia, foreign workers from Southeast and South Asia are debt bonded and controlled, and the government’s efforts to shelter and care for victims is really sub-par, and marred by bureaucratic red-tape. Victim support is about commitment, resources, and training, but it’s not rocket science and there are plenty of best practices to learn from. Malaysia only needs to look next door to #Thailand to see how to run an effective shelter system, yet instead the government is busy out-sourcing its responsibilities to #NGOs and then dragging its feet on providing needed funding. In adopting that approach, Malaysia is aligning with the poor practices of #Cambodia in dealing with trafficking victims.

Malaysia has also made no effort to untangle wholly different concepts of ‘people smuggling’ from human trafficking in Malaysia’s anti-trafficking law, leaving front line officials with a buffet line choice of whether to designate a person as an illegal immigrant or a #trafficking victim. Not surprisingly, effective identification of trafficking victims falters in all but the most obvious cases, and the #Malaysian anti-trafficking efforts stumble at the first hurdle. Amendments to the law in 2015 to create an inter-agency committee are far from sufficient to deal with the larger problems the law creates.

The Malaysia government’s failure to prosecute any Malaysian officials for their involvement in the #Rohingya smuggling camps is a testament to odious impunity to commit trafficking abuses, and demonstrates a fundamental lack of political will by the Malaysian government. It’s a joke to say that investigations are ‘continuing’ into the Rohingya cases when for all intents and purposes, the investigations have finished in Malaysia and Thailand. For the second year in a row, the section on Malaysia undermines the credibility of TIP report, and #Congress should be calling Secretary #Tillerson up to Capitol Hill to explain why. Progress can constitute many things, but calling a move from near zero to 10 percent still means that you’ve got 90 percent of the way to go – a fact which seems to be lost on whoever decide to upgrade Malaysia’s ranking to Tier 2. In fact, some of the justifications for ‘progress’ in Malaysia’s record are as clear as mud, and would be laughable if the rights issues at hand were not so serious.

For more details, contact Phil at +66-85-060-8406, or email: RobertP@hrw.org
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