BURMA: Tier 3

The Government of Burma does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore Burma remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government continued to prosecute and convict traffickers, raise awareness of the crime among vulnerable communities, and screen for potential victims in key border areas with high prevalence of the crime. However, there were reports that government officials were complicit in both sex- and labor trafficking, including by hindering law enforcement efforts against the perpetrators, and by subjecting incarcerated populations to unlawful prison labor. Burmese armed forces (Tatmadaw) operations in several areas of the country continued to dislocate thousands of Rohingya and members of other ethnic groups, many of whom were vulnerable to trafficking in Burma and elsewhere in the region as a result of their displacement. While the Tatmadaw continued efforts to identify and demobilize child soldiers among its ranks, child soldier recruitment and use continued, and the government took punitive action against former child soldiers for desertion, alleged fraud, and defamation. The Tatmadaw continued to require troops to source their own labor and supplies from local communities, thereby perpetuating the forced labor of adults and children.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Cease all unlawful recruitment and use of children by armed forces and make efforts to facilitate ending child soldier recruitment by non-state groups, including by supporting the UN’s efforts to enter into child demobilization agreements with ethnic armed groups (EAGs). • Cease arresting, detaining, and punishing victims—including minors absconding from Tatmadaw service—for acts committed while subjected to trafficking. • Implement formal procedures to proactively identify victims among vulnerable groups and refer them to service providers, with an emphasis on communities displaced by conflict. • Provide legal status to stateless persons in Burma to decrease their vulnerability to trafficking. • Reduce trafficking vulnerabilities among internally displaced members of ethnic minority groups by eliminating restrictions on their freedom of movement. • Cease official involvement in compelling civilians to perform any type of forced labor for the military, including by formally ending the “self-reliance” policy that drives the demand for forced labor. • Cease the forced labor of prison inmates. • Strengthen efforts to identify, prosecute, and convict individuals—including Tatmadaw and other government officials and civilian brokers—complicit in sex and labor trafficking, including the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, and apply adequate penalties, including significant prison terms. • Amend the anti-trafficking law to ensure a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion is not required to constitute a child sex trafficking offense. • Strengthen efforts to prioritize and significantly increase government funding for victim protection efforts, including victim shelters, provision of services for male victims, and reintegration support for former child soldiers. • Enhance law enforcement and justice sector efforts to more effectively apprehend suspected traffickers and retain them under pre-trial detention during court proceedings in order to reduce their risk of flight. • Establish and implement a comprehensive criminal justice record-keeping system to track data on anti-trafficking investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentencing. • In partnership with civil society groups and regional authorities, develop and implement oversight mechanisms to prevent forced labor in precious gemstone mining, with a focus on jade mining in Kachin State.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained limited law enforcement efforts. The 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking. However, inconsistent with international law, the law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine for trafficking offenses involving male victims, and penalties of 10 years’ to life imprisonment for trafficking offenses involving female or child victims. These punishments were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Forced labor, including the recruitment of children into the Tatmadaw, was a criminal offense under the 2005 anti-trafficking law, the 2012 Wards and Village Tracts Administration Act, and penal code section 374. The Tatmadaw reportedly continued to cite provisions in military law to punish individuals who used or recruited children for purposes of exploitation; the government did not provide information about the identities of these individuals or their punishments in 2018, but those applied in prior years—including demotions and geographic reassignments—were disproportionately low compared to the seriousness of the crime. The government continued a legal review to redraft and strengthen the 2005 anti-trafficking law. For the third consecutive year, a draft child protection law establishing clearer penalties for civilians and Tatmadaw personnel convicted of child soldiering offenses remained under parliamentary consideration at the end of the reporting period.

Burma’s judiciary lacked a comprehensive record-keeping system, leading to incomplete law enforcement statistics. In 2018, the government reported investigating 205 trafficking cases (185 in 2017). Of these, 21 were cases of forced labor (22 in 2017 and 44 in 2016), 20 were cases of “forced prostitution,” and five with unspecified “unique circumstances” involving children that did not meet international definitional standards, such as illicit adoption and surrogacy practices. The remaining 158 were cases of forced marriage; authorities did not report whether these featured corollary sex trafficking or forced labor indicators. Unlike in prior years, the government did not disaggregate forced labor cases by industry; authorities merely specified two of the cases identified in Thailand involved a rubber plantation and a girl forced to sell candy, respectively (one case of domestic servitude and 21 cases related to fishing, manufacturing, palm oil farming, and jade and precious stone mining in 2017). Most of the government’s law enforcement efforts continued to focus on sex trafficking or the involuntary domestic servitude of Burmese women through forced marriages to Chinese men. Authorities reported identifying 585 suspects, among whom they arrested and prosecuted 342 individuals (532 prosecutions in 2017); however, most of these were conducted in absentia. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATIPD) broadened trafficking investigations into criminal assets under the Anti-Money Laundering Law, leading to successful asset seizure in two cases. Unlike in prior years, the government did not report how many traffickers it convicted (156 in 2017 and 145 in 2016), and courts did not provide complete sentencing data (86 individuals imprisoned in 2017). Based on sentencing information gleaned from a small number of illustrative cases provided by the authorities, sentences ranged from 10 to 40 years’ imprisonment. In previous years, as many as half of convicted traffickers—whom authorities did not keep in pre-trial detention during proceedings—absconded and remained at large. Contacts reported the government did not make significant efforts to track and apprehend these absconded suspects.

The ATIPD maintained dedicated anti-trafficking task force (ATTF) police throughout the country and increased the number of officers among 32 regional offices to 490 in 2018 (373 in 2017). Burma’s Central Body for the Suppression of Trafficking in Persons (CBTIP) coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, including training for ATIPD offices. It also continued to host training sessions and coordination meetings on trafficking for government officials with foreign donor assistance. Civilian police capacity to address trafficking continued to improve, but overall progress was limited in the absence of key criminal justice reforms and amid ongoing organizational concerns, including insufficient interagency coordination. A lack of clarity between the roles and responsibilities of ATTF officers and general Myanmar Police Force (MPF) officers, coupled with poor police-prosecutor cooperation and rapid law enforcement turnover, continued to hamper the success of investigations and prosecutions. MPF officers often perceived they did not have the authority to pursue investigations proactively, believing instead that trafficking crimes fell solely under ATTF jurisdiction. It is therefore possible that some MPF officers turned away victims attempting to report their abuses, as was the case in prior years. ATTF officers continued to consult and cooperate with law enforcement agencies in China, Laos, and Thailand as part of formal dialogues on trafficking issues; however, observers noted frequent turnover among ATTF officers prevented Burma from participating meaningfully in some of these cooperative mechanisms.

Some government and law enforcement officers reportedly participated in, facilitated, or profited from the sex trafficking of women and girls. Corruption and impunity reportedly continued to hinder the enforcement of trafficking laws; police officers acting on bribes, as well as individuals claiming to have ties to high-level officials, purportedly pressured victims not to seek legal redress against their traffickers in some cases. NGOs alleged some government officials were connected to or profited from entertainment establishments engaged in the sex trafficking of women and girls; victims also reported witnessing unspecified uniformed personnel involved in trafficking crimes. Authorities reported charging and opening investigations into two government officials suspected of complicity in trafficking-related crimes; one involved a Lashio police prosecutor who allegedly accepted bribes to facilitate illicit marriage migration, a key trafficking vulnerability, and authorities did not provide information on the second charge. A third corruption case involved the spouse of a former Mandalay police who allegedly used her influence to facilitate an unspecified internal trafficking crime. All three cases were ongoing at the end of the reporting period. In prior years, ATTF has raided and arrested the managers of karaoke bars and other establishments for alleged sex trafficking; the owners of these establishments frequently absconded prior to the raids, leading to suspicions of advance warning from local administrative or law enforcement officials.

The power and influence of the Tatmadaw limited the ability of the government to address cases of adult forced labor and child soldier recruitment and use by the armed forces. Burmese law provided for separate judicial procedures for military personnel accused of criminal misconduct. However, authorities did not provide specific information about these procedures during the reporting period, and civilian authorities had never prosecuted a civilian for child soldier recruitment despite reports of civilian recruitment brokers. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) reported taking unspecified disciplinary action against 27 Tatmadaw personnel for child soldier recruitment in 2018; this marked an increase from 19 personnel punished in 2017. The MOD did not report punitive measures for Tatmadaw personnel guilty of subjecting adults to forced labor. In past years, most of these cases reportedly culminated in reprimands, fines, or decreases in pension—penalties significantly less than those prescribed by criminal law.

PROTECTION

The government maintained inadequate victim protection efforts. Authorities continued to rely on neighboring countries’ screening and referral measures for the majority of victims identified. The government reported ongoing efforts to establish a national referral mechanism with the help of an international organization. Police reported identifying or receiving foreign governments’ referrals for 312 trafficking victims in 2018, including 31 children (an increase from 289 in 2017); however, more than 150 of these cases involved forced marriage, and authorities did not report whether these included corollary forced labor or sex trafficking indicators. The exact number of domestic victims identified by Burmese authorities was unknown, but police reported assisting victims in 29 cases of trafficking within the country (44 cases in 2017). Authorities estimated internal trafficking constituted 18 percent of all cases identified during the year; civil society groups believed this figure to be much higher. The government did not undertake victim screening or service provision efforts among vulnerable ethnic minority communities displaced by conflict in Rakhine, Kachin, or Shan States. The Tatmadaw granted most UN monitors’ requests within 72 hours to access and inspect military installations for the presence of children; in recent years, the UN reported the Tatmadaw might have carefully controlled these visits and removed problematic indicators in advance. The government restricted the access of most international organizations to its prisons; the government also prevented assistance from reaching displaced Rohingya and other vulnerable populations during the year by implementing access restrictions on the UN and other humanitarian agencies. Continued violence in Rakhine State and conflict in Kachin and Shan states also constrained monitoring efforts.

International monitors verified at least two new incidents of child recruitment by the Tatmadaw during the reporting period (49 total cases in 2017), the youngest of which involved a 13-year-old. The UN also confirmed at least 36 cases that had been pending verification in the previous reporting period. Specific data on methods of recruitment were unavailable, but past methods included force and coercion by both civilian and military brokers, as well intake of minors joining at the behest of their families. At least 174 unverified cases of recruitment into Tatmadaw ranks were under review at the end of 2018. The Tatmadaw and its affiliate militias also continued to use children for labor or other support roles, including barracks cleaning, portering, and cooking. International monitors documented dozens of cases of child use by the Tatmadaw, including three incidents involving 54 children used—possibly in direct hostilities—in northern Rakhine State. The Border Guard Police also reportedly used children for unspecified labor. The Tatmadaw removed at least 12 children from front-line assignments in response to notification letters from international monitors, and the government reported releasing at least 75 individuals originally recruited as children from the Tatmadaw through implementation of its UN-backed action plan on child soldiers (49 in 2017 and 112 in 2016). Observers attributed the continued trend of recruitment and use to ongoing military conflict in several areas of the country, including Rakhine State.

International monitors continued to report cases in which the Tatmadaw detained children for absconding from its ranks, as well as for alleged affiliation with EAGs. Authorities reported using biometric registration technology to prevent minors from enlisting with the Tatmadaw, including those who had already been demobilized and were attempting to rejoin; data on these trends were unavailable, but in previous years, the Tatmadaw at times filed fraud charges against some of these children for lying about their age, rather than referring them to protective services. The officer in charge of several Tatmadaw installations reportedly issued a written decree threatening any minors secretly enlisted under his command with jail time if they failed to come forward for demobilization prior to March 1, 2018. NGOs believed this policy might have dissuaded some minors from benefiting from demobilization services. Authorities arbitrarily added six months to the two-year prison sentence of a former child soldier convicted on defamation charges after he relayed his experience to an international media outlet in 2018. This may have further discouraged child soldiers from coming forward and accessing protective services.

The government continued to operate five centers for women and children who were victims of violent crime; all five could shelter trafficking victims, and one was dedicated to female trafficking victims. Another housed repatriated trafficking victims. Prior to their reintegration, these victims had the alternative option to stay in any of four transit centers run by the Department of Rehabilitation (DoR) under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement (MSWRR); these facilities were called “Women’s Vocational Training Centers,” and a fifth was in development at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report how many victims benefited from this provision in 2018. The government also operated three facilities funded by a foreign donor that could serve both male and female victims. It did not report the total number of victims receiving services in these facilities or whether shelters housed any men. Services in government facilities remained rudimentary, but authorities allocated funding for trafficking victim protection, and some victims received psycho-social counseling, travel allowances, support for obtaining official documents, and assistance in returning to home communities. NGOs and foreign donors funded and facilitated delivery of most services available to trafficking victims. Contacts reported the wide purview of the MSWRR—which included Burma’s narcotics epidemic and social services in conflict zones—prevented it from dedicating sufficient resources to protecting trafficking victims. The government did not maintain a centralized fund for victim assistance, but MSWRR reportedly provided 19.75 million kyats ($12,870) to fund reintegration services for 175 trafficking victims, and the ATIPD’s budget included a line item of 381 million kyats ($248,210) for reintegration, transport, meals, and medical care. In an effort to improve interagency-NGO coordination on victim protection, the government added 60 personnel to the DoR, but it reportedly remained under-resourced.

Overall government support to demobilized child soldiers remained minimal, with most services provided by civil society partners. Longer-term support was limited to vocational training for some former child soldiers and women in major city centers and border areas; the lack of adequate protective measures for victims—particularly males—left them vulnerable to re-trafficking. The government did not have adequate procedures for assisting victims identified abroad, and diplomatic missions overseas largely lacked adequate funding or capacity to provide basic assistance or repatriate victims. However, the government maintained labor attachés in Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea, whose responsibilities included assisting trafficking victims. Authorities reported repatriating 3,600 Burmese nationals from abroad with assistance from an international organization, but they did not specify how many of these were trafficking victims.

The government maintained Department of Social Welfare (DSW) offices throughout the country, each with full-time case managers, to provide health care, reintegration assistance, psycho-social care, and legal services to trafficking victims, including child soldiers. The government also established a working group on victim repatriation, reintegration, and rehabilitation under the DSW. However, DSW continued to lack the resources necessary to adequately provide these services to trafficking victims, and high ATTF turnover and lack of awareness impeded the coordination required to ensure victims identified by law enforcement officers would be connected to DSW protection. While police and border officials continued to proactively identify suspected victims en route to China for marriages likely to result in sex or labor exploitation or to Thailand for potential sex trafficking, authorities did not follow standardized, nationwide procedures or receive adequate training for the proactive identification of victims. CBTIP reportedly arranged training for ATIPD officers on victim identification and protection, in addition to fostering coordination between ATIPD and civil society groups on service provision.

Trafficking victims frequently declined to cooperate with authorities due to the lack of adequate victim protection or compensation programs, language barriers, a lengthy and opaque trial process, fear of repercussions from their traffickers, and general mistrust of the legal system. A cumbersome investigative process required victims to give statements multiple times to different officials, increasing the likelihood of re-traumatization. Restrictions on contact between victims and prosecutors further impeded case-relevant communication and further obfuscated the court process for some victims. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, nor did it provide temporary status to any foreign victims. Although there were no specific reports of victim penalization during the reporting period, in prior years, authorities arrested sex trafficking victims due to inadequate efforts to screen for indicators of trafficking during anti-prostitution interventions—a trend that likely continued.

PREVENTION

The government maintained prevention efforts. CBTIP continued to coordinate anti-trafficking programs and policies, and authorities established a new prevention working group under the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, a draft five-year comprehensive trafficking prevention strategy initiated in 2016 remained under presidential review for the third consecutive year. A 2014 directive prohibiting the use of children by the Tatmadaw remained in place. Although oversight and monitoring of recruitment procedures remained insufficient to prevent child recruitment, the Tatmadaw continued to employ age verification measures and provide enlisted personnel, training centers, and recruitment officials with age assessment and child soldier prevention trainings. The government formed an interagency “Committee for Preventing Grave Violations against Children in Armed Conflicts” to formulate and implement relevant public awareness campaigns. However, because the Tatmadaw did not cease its “self-reliance” policy in practice, adults and children—particularly in conflict areas populated by members of ethnic minorities—remained vulnerable to forced labor.

Ethnic minority groups in Burma—particularly internally displaced Rohingya, Rakhine, Shan, and Kachin communities—continued to be at elevated risk of forced labor as a result of ongoing military action. Rakhine groups fleeing Tatmadaw violence were especially vulnerable to forced labor in EAG-owned jade mines and nearby refuse mining operations run by government-backed militias in Kachin state; some Rakhine individuals paid EAG-run brokerages to facilitate this internal migration, incurring large debts in the process and increasing their vulnerability to debt bondage. The government did not formally allow the UN to enter into child soldier demobilization agreements with EAGs, which continued their recruitment and use of child soldiers during the reporting period amid ongoing violence in several areas of the country. Violence in northern Rakhine State also continued to result in the migration of Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh, where many of them were vulnerable to trafficking—or transported to other countries for the purpose of sex trafficking—as a result of their displacement.

Approximately one quarter of Burma’s residents continued to lack access to citizenship or identity documents, significantly increasing their vulnerability to traffickers in Burma and in other countries. Authorities continued to offer a citizenship verification process pursuant to a 1982 law, but participation was low among Rohingya in Rakhine State amid concerns that the authorities might require these individuals to inaccurately list themselves as “Bengali,” a term that could potentially further limit their access to certain rights. Authorities did issue citizenship to a small number of Rohingya, but most of these were naturalized—a distinction that afforded them fewer rights than full citizens. Government policies limiting freedom of movement in some jurisdictions hindered access to employment and education for some communities, especially in IDP camps housing Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups, further aggravating economic conditions that have contributed to individuals pursuing informal migration and employment channels known to engender forced labor and sex trafficking.

The government reported conducting an awareness-raising campaign through 2,251 separate activities involving print, television, radio, billboards, roadshows, and other media—particularly in high-vulnerability states—and to train members of community-based watch groups and students on trafficking (2,300 activities in 2017). This included placement of 46 billboards and 200 posters informing people of their rights, and distribution of 500,000 anti-trafficking pamphlets nationwide. CBTIP used state-owned radio, television, and a social media platform to raise awareness on safe migration guidelines and government policies, regulations, and laws related to trafficking. ATIPD officers reportedly conducted awareness-raising activities in 26 IDP camps in Kachin State and 28 IDP camps in Rakhine, reaching an estimated 8,300 individuals. The government also established new contact with local law enforcement liaison offices in non-government-controlled areas to disseminate awareness-raising materials in vulnerable communities. Authorities continued to release information on the prosecution of traffickers via government-supported and private media throughout the country. The ATIPD maintained a hotline and a social media account with information on trafficking, including updated law enforcement statistics, but did not report the extent to which the public employed either of these mechanisms. The government did not make significant efforts to punish labor recruiters or brokers for illegal practices that increased migrants’ vulnerability to exploitation abroad. The police did not report any cases of child sex tourism during the reporting period. Authorities continued to partner with an NGO to raise awareness about child sex tourism. The government did not take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers subject men, women, and children to forced labor, and women and children to sex trafficking, both in Burma and abroad. There have also been limited reports of traffickers transporting foreign victims through Burma en route to other countries in Asia. Traffickers subject some Burmese men, women, and children who migrate for work abroad—particularly to Thailand and China, as well as other countries in Asia, the Middle East, and the United States—to forced labor or sex trafficking. Traffickers force men to work abroad in fishing, manufacturing, forestry, agriculture, and construction, and they subject women and girls primarily to sex trafficking or forced labor in garment manufacturing and domestic service. NGOs continue to report instances of Burmese males transiting Thailand en route to Indonesia and Malaysia, where traffickers subject them to forced labor, primarily in fishing and other labor-intensive industries. Senior crew aboard Thai-owned and flagged fishing vessels subject some Burmese men to forced labor through debt-based coercion, passport confiscation, threats of physical or financial harm, or fraudulent recruitment; they also subject some to physical abuse and force them to remain aboard vessels in international waters for years at a time without coming ashore. Traffickers are increasingly transporting Burmese women to China and subjecting them to sex trafficking and domestic servitude through forced marriages to Chinese men; Burmese government officials are occasionally complicit in this form of trafficking, as well as in the facilitation of the smuggling and exploitation of Rohingya migrants. Traffickers abduct Rohingya women and children in transit while fleeing violence—and reportedly from refugee camps in Bangladesh—and sell them into forced marriage in India, Indonesia, and Malaysia; some of them may experience conditions indicative of forced labor or sex trafficking.

Within Burma, men, women, and children from predominantly ethnic minority areas—including more than 107,000 persons displaced by conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states and at least 150,000 displaced persons in Rakhine state—are at increased risk of trafficking. Approximately one quarter of the population in Burma does not have access to citizenship or identification documents, generating trafficking vulnerabilities that disproportionately affect ethnic minority groups—particularly in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine States. In Kachin, displaced women and girls are especially vulnerable to trafficking, including forced concubinism leading to forced childbearing, via forced or fraudulent marriages to Chinese men arranged by deceptive or coercive brokers. One academic study found that 2,800 out of 5,000 Kachin and Shan women returning to Burma after experiencing forced marriage in China had also been subjected to forced childbearing. Rohingya individuals are particularly vulnerable to labor trafficking in Rakhine state, including forced labor perpetrated by government authorities. Many women and girls among the estimated 728,000 Rohingya who fled from conflict in Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 have been subjected to sex trafficking in Bangladesh and India. Ethnic Rakhine are reported to be victims of forced labor on the margins of conflict between the Tatmadaw and EAGs in Rakhine State. Traffickers subject members of Burma’s Shan, Burman, and Thai Yai ethnic groups to sex trafficking and forced labor in seasonal strawberry and longan harvesting, year-round orange farming, manufacturing in registered and unregistered factories, and construction of roads and city government facilities across the border in northwestern Thailand. Traffickers use deceptive recruitment tactics and immigration status-based coercion to subject migrant workers from Shan State to forced labor on sugarcane plantations in China’s Yunnan Province.

Local traffickers use deceptive tactics to recruit men and boys into forced labor on palm oil and rubber plantations, in jade and precious stone mines, and in riparian fishing. In Kachin State, men, women, and children are vulnerable to forced labor in jade prospecting throughout refuse areas created by larger mining operations. A majority of these prospectors are reportedly addicted to opiates or methamphetamines, which some traffickers—including members of EAGs and government-supported militias—may intentionally facilitate and exploit to retain their labor. Crime syndicates subject women and girls to sex trafficking in massage parlors located in close proximity to these refuse mining areas, often in partnership with local government and law enforcement officials. Many people displaced by violence in Rakhine State, including ethnic Rakhine, travel to Kachin for this work. Forced eviction from new mining sites and resulting economic hardships make Kachin communities more vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers subject children to sex trafficking or to forced labor, at times through debt-based coercion, in teashops, small businesses, the agricultural and construction sectors, and in begging. Traffickers subject children and adults to forced domestic servitude. A small number of foreign child sex tourists exploit Burmese children.

Some Tatmadaw personnel, civilian brokers, border guard officials, and EAGs continue to recruit or use child soldiers, particularly in conflict-affected ethnic areas. Civilian recruiters in some cases coerce or offer incentives to children or their families through false promises about working conditions, salary, and promotion opportunities. EAGs force men and boys to serve through intimidation, coercion, threats, arbitrary taxation, and violence. The Tatmadaw has employed the same tactics in the past, although many children identified in military service initially enter under the auspices of civilian brokers or enlist at the behest of their own families. The Tatmadaw deploys some child soldiers to the front-line as combatants. Tatmadaw-backed militias are also increasingly involved in the recruitment and use of children in conflict settings. Some EAGs abduct or recruit children, including from internally displaced persons’ camps, to fight against the Tatmadaw.

The Tatmadaw, civilian officials, and some EAGs also use various forms of coercion, including threats of financial and physical harm, to compel adult victims into forced labor. In areas with active conflict, the Tatmadaw subjects members of local populations—mostly men, but also women and children—to forced labor in portering, construction, cleaning, cooking, and public infrastructure projects. The Tatmadaw also subjects civilians to forced labor as part of its “self-reliance” policy, under which battalions are responsible for procuring their own food and labor from local communities. Reports of Tatmadaw-controlled forced labor and other abuses are highest among ethnic minority communities in the conflict zones within Shan, Karen, and Kachin states. Land confiscation by the Tatmadaw, local government, and private businesses places agricultural workers and people living in mining areas at risk for forced labor, including on lands they had previously occupied.

The government operates as many as 47 prisons and 49 labor camps, which it officially dubs “agriculture and livestock breeding career training centers” and “manufacturing centers,” respectively. The camps house more than 20,000 inmates across the country, including Rohingya and others convicted under spurious or politically motivated charges. Eighteen of these camps feature mining operations. Authorities reportedly send prisoners whose sentences do not include “hard labor” to these labor camps in contravention of the law. Labor camp authorities also “rent out” portions of the prison population as a labor source for private companies. Political prisoners may be at elevated risk of trafficking upon release due to laws preventing them from securing documents related to proof of identity, travel permission, or land ownership. Anti-LGBTI laws place some LGBTI individuals at higher risk of extortion and psychological coercion by law enforcement.

2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Burma
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