Human Traffickers Exploit Nargis Aftermath

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MONDAY, 03 MAY 2010

RANGOON—Thousands of women in the Irrawaddy delta, most victims of Cyclone Nargis who still face enormous hardships two years after the storm ravaged the region, have been targeted by human traffickers, according to social workers.

“Many of them [young women in the Irrawaddy delta]don’t want to stay in a place that has no job opportunities, as they face many difficulties for their daily survival,” said a social worker at the Karen Women’s Action Group. “They want to move to a new place to find work and a better life.”

Under these circumstances, social workers say conditions are ripe for exploitation by human traffickers, and according to a social worker at INGO, a Rangoon-based agency, many women, including teenagers, from Nargis-hit regions have been smuggled to different cities or even neighboring countries through various channels.

“Since Cyclone Nargis ripped into the Irrawaddy delta, killing tens of thousands and tearing families apart, many young women were trafficked to cities and forced to work at sex-related businesses like karaoke bars and massage parlors,” said an anti-human trafficking trainer. “The socio-economic situation forced them to sell their bodies. Most times the relatives of the victim have no idea where she is or who took her. It’s very difficult to get even a tiny amount of information on the victim.”

Some women were also sent to China to be sold as “wives,” according to social workers.

In the lingering wake of Cyclone Nargis, children are also being trafficked. The Rangoon-based newspaper, Modern Journal, recently reported that children constitute twenty percent of human trafficking victims exposed by the police, according to a high-ranking police official. Some orphans are taken to work as low-paid workers in factories, restaurants and markets.

The US Department of State’s “Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 – Burma,” said that in 2008 there was a dramatic increase in the number of unverified reports of forced labor, including forced labor of children, and trafficking in persons.

The report added that, “The military junta’s gross economic mismanagement, human rights abuses and its continued widespread use of forced labor are among the top causal factors for Burma’s significant trafficking problem.”

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