If Malaysia does not tolerate any form of human trafficking, why does it occupy the lowest tier (Tier 3) in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons 2014 Report?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 16th of May, 2015

Prime Minister Najib, in a statement released yesterday, in response to the escalating Rohingya immigrant crisis, said the following:

 “Malaysia does not and will not tolerate any form of human trafficking. Anyone found to be perpetrating this injustice and contravening our laws will be held accountable.”

The Prime Minister’s statement is a joke given Malaysia’s atrocious record on human trafficking and the lack of political will to undertake meaningful steps in order to address these serious shortcomings.

The US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report had put Malaysia on the Tier 2 Watch List from 2010 to 2013. Being on the Tier 2 watch list means that Malaysia is a country which is one of the “governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act (TVPA)’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts bring themselves into compliance with those standards”.  After not showing any progress to improve its human trafficking record, Malaysia was automatically downgraded to a Tier 3 status country in 2014 which is one of the countries “whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”[1]

Among some of the problems highlighting in Malaysia are the following:

“Refugees in Malaysia lack formal status or the ability to obtain work permits under Malaysian law, making them vulnerable to trafficking. Many incur large smuggling debts; traffickers use these debts to subject some refugees to debt bondage.”[2]

The issue of human trafficking and the treatment continues to be a serious one in Malaysia despite the enactment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007.[3] The effective enforcement of this Act[4] as well as underlying weaknesses in this Act that opens itself up to abuse have not been addressed.[5]

This problem has become so serious that Malaysia’s participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) could be jeopardized as a result of its Tier 3 status in the Trafficking in Persons 2014 Report.[6]

As long as the Malaysian government refuses to have an honest examination of its policies towards refugees and migrants, our human trafficking record will continue to languish. The recent humanitarian crisis involving the Rohingyas is but the tip of a much larger iceberg of the human trafficking problem in our country which the Malaysian government, led by the Prime Minister, refuses to acknowledge even exists.

[1] http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2014/226649.htm

[2] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226847.pdf

[3] http://www.agc.gov.my/Akta/Vol.%2014/Act%20670.pdf

[4] http://www.thestar.com.my/story/?file=%2F2009%2F2%2F15%2Ffocus%2F3272925&sec=focus

[5] http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/142533

[6] http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/68376779/malaysias-human-trafficking-may-doom-trans-pacific-partnership