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The Trafficking Situation in Myanmar
Myanmar is a source country for women, children, and men trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Myanmar people are trafficked to Thailand, China, Malaysia, South Korea, and Macau for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced labour; some Myanmar migrants end up in situations of forced or bonded labour or forced prostitution. Myanmar children are particularly vulnerable to unlawfully working internally, as well as being trafficked into Thailand as forced street hawkers and beggars, or to work in shops, agriculture, and small-scale industries. Myanmar is also a transit country for trafficking of Bangladeshis to Malaysia and Chinese to Thailand.
In Myanmar, trafficking takes place within the context of large-scale migration, both internal and cross-border migration. Some research suggests that as many as one-third of Myanmar's population have migrated between urban and rural areas within their lifetime, with Thailand being the main destination country. Though the migration figures differ, one mid-point estimate suggests that out of one million illegal immigrants in Thailand, 75% are from Myanmar . Little is known about cross-border migration to China, however, in 2001 Save the Children estimated that 140,000 persons from Myanmar have relocated to live along or across the Chinese border.
Where do trafficked persons come from and how are they exploited?
Cross Border Human Trafficking
Border crossings: From Kengtung and Tachileik to Mae Sai, Thailand; from Myawaddy to Mae Sot, Thailand; and from Kawthaung to Ranong, Thailand, and sometimes from these points through to Malaysia. Women from Kachin State and Northern Shan States are trafficked to Yunnan Province, China, via Ruili.
Internal routes to border crossings: The central dry zone areas (Mandalay, Sagaing and Magway) are source areas for people trafficked to Mae Sot in Thailand, via Kawkreik and Myawaddy. Another route is from Yangon and the surrounding areas to Mae Sot via Hpa-an and then Myawaddy.
Exploitation: For Malaysia and Thailand, women and men are trafficked for labor exploitation; women are trafficked also for sexual exploitation and domestic work. Children are trafficked into forced labour as street hawkers and beggars. The main exploitative sites in Thailand are Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Mae Sai, and Mae Sot. For China, women as young as fourteen are taken to border towns in Yunnan Province and as far as Eastern China, where they are forced to marry Chinese men or work in the sex industry.
Repatriations: 73 % of officially indentified victims repatriated from Thailand and Malaysia are from the Shan States (2005-2006); 36% of victims repatriated from China are from the the central dry zone areas and 36% are from the Yangon Division (2005-2006)
Internal Human Trafficking within Myanmar
Internal trafficking of women and girls occurs primarily from villages in the central dry zone areas and Delta (Ayeyarwaddy Division) to urban centres. Other transportation and economic hubs, such as truck stops, fishing villages, border towns, and mining areas also destination sites.
The main destinations for internal trafficking are Yangon and Mandalay, which are also transit points for cross-border trafficking.
Women are trafficked into sexual and labour exploitation; children are trafficked into forced labour in shops, agriculture, and small-scale industries.
What is the scale of Human Trafficking in Myanmar?
There are no reliable estimates on the number of persons trafficked annually, although a total of 134 trafficking cases were investigated in 2008 involving 303 victims (153 female and 50 male), and 342 traffickers prosecuted . 15 cases were of internal trafficking, and there are likely to be further cases in remote areas. Identified cases can only represent a small fraction of the scale of the problem. UNICEF for example, proposed in 2003 that 10,000 girls being trafficked every year from Myanmar into Thai brothels alone.
For more information and for citations on the statistics contained in this page, see the SIREN Human Trafficking Datasheet for Myanmar [325 kB]