The government increased law enforcement efforts. The 2019 Anti- Trafficking in Persons Order criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 30 years’ imprisonment and fines of between 10,000 and 1 million Brunei dollars (BND) ($7,400 and $739,640), which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The penal code also criminalized travel outside the country for commercial sex with children, prescribing a punishment of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. The government may have also utilized Chapter 120 Section 5 of the Women and Girls Prosecution Act, which addresses “living on or trading in prostitution,” to prosecute potential sex trafficking crimes. The act prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000, which were significantly lower than those available under the trafficking law.
Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF), labor, and immigration officers referred 134 suspected trafficking crimes to the human trafficking unit (HTU) for review and potential investigation, a decrease compared with 147 cases in 2020. The HTU was responsible for formally identifying trafficking cases and reviewed case reports to look for trafficking crimes, particularly in cases involving commercial sex, unpaid wages, workers fleeing their place of employment, or physical abuse of workers. The government investigated 14 cases as potential trafficking crimes, four for sex trafficking and 10 for forced labor, compared with three investigations the previous year. The government prosecuted its first labor trafficking case. Despite a 2004 law criminalizing labor trafficking and repeated reports that a significant number of migrant workers in Brunei exhibited multiple trafficking indicators, the government had never prosecuted a labor trafficking case. Authorities investigated, and the attorney general’s chambers (AGC) charged, an alleged trafficker with six counts of people trafficking, and the case was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. For the fifth consecutive year, courts did not convict any traffickers under its trafficking statute; the government’s most recent trafficking convictions were of three traffickers in 2016. In practice, investigators required proof of physical force, fraud, or physical coercion for a trafficking crime. As a result, and inconsistent with the 2019 law, officials did not investigate or prosecute as trafficking cases in which the alleged traffickers used non-physical forms of coercion. Observers indicated that an overreliance on victim testimony and lack of special investigative measures to corroborate evidence led to cases being investigated and prosecuted under non-trafficking statutes. Government officials ascribed poor prosecutorial efforts to high evidentiary standards, including the definition of exploitation, under the anti-trafficking law, despite the law’s consistency with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Observers reported a fundamental lack of understanding about the pervasiveness of trafficking in Brunei and an institutional lack of understanding of labor-related trafficking indicators, including passport retention and nonpayment of wages, among government officials that hindered anti-trafficking efforts. In addition, observers reported that authorities did not investigate all alleged potential trafficking crimes and focused their efforts on crimes committed by foreign perpetrators rather than Bruneian criminals.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action. The government prosecuted government officials involved in visa fraud under non-trafficking laws. Law enforcement officials cooperated with foreign governments on ongoing international trafficking cases; however, the government reportedly did not cooperate with foreign governments on domestic trafficking prosecutions when cases involved foreign nationals. The government trained RBPF, immigration, labor, and anti-vice officers on victim identification and protective services. In addition, the NTHT provided training to law enforcement officials and employers on worker rights and employment laws.