Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

ACHR Index: PR/ML/02/05
29 August 2005

National laws increase the risks of trafficking,
UN meeting told in Beijing

Beijing/New Delhi: The Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, “Beyond Gender: Illegal Laws, Ethnicity, Armed Conflicts and Trafficking” ( released today for the Inter-governmental meeting of the Framework on Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region being held in Beijing from 29 August to 2 September 2005 stated that national laws of many countries including Thailand and China increase the risk of trafficking and hill tribes/ ethnic minorities have been disproportionate victims of trafficking. Between 8,00,000 and 9,00,000 are trafficked every year and one third of them are trafficked within and from Southeast Asia. Around 30% of commercial sex workers in Southeast Asia are under 18 years of age.  In India alone, reportedly an estimated 2.3 million are engaged in prostitution, a quarter of whom are minors.

“While many governments have been adopting anti-trafficking laws, some governments like Thailand and China have so far failed to address the laws which increase the risks of trafficking” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The children of refugees, migrants and hill-tribes in Thailand are not allowed birth registration and they remain most vulnerable to trafficking. In addition, about 3,77,677 hill tribes whose citizenship applications have not been processed as yet, are not allowed to move freely depending on the colour of identity cards issued to them. Thailand is an “Open Jail” for them as they can be sent to jail for moving out of their villages or sub-divisions.

“Women belonging to these hill tribes cannot register births or marriages, cannot have access to education or jobs or public health care services. Traffickers and unscrupulous employers exploit their statelessness and they remain at the mercy of the employers and traffickers,” stated Mr Chakma.

There are about 130 million internal migrants presently in China and millions of them are illegal under the hukou system as provided under the Provision of the People's Republic of China on Household Registration of 1958. Under this provision, citizens do not have the right to selecting the place of their residence. Those who migrate without seeking permission are “illegal” and can be subjected to detention and various punishments, in addition to denial of economic and social rights. In 2000, there were reportedly 3.2 million instances of detention under Custody and Repatriation. The "vast majority" of detainees were internal migrants from rural areas.

“The illegal internal migrants under the hukou system are vulnerable to trafficking and the response of the government of China to change the law has been slow” – further stated Mr Chakma.

Though victims of trafficking come from different races and nationalities, indigenous peoples/hill tribes and ethnic minorities constitute disproportionate majority among the victims of trafficking because of discrimination, extreme poverty and lack of any rights. In addition, beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, internal armed conflicts in Asia - whether in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka - involve ethnic minority groups. The hill tribes in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam are victims of institutionalised discrimination.

About 90% of trafficked sex workers in northern Thailand are Burmese nationals, mainly ethnic minorities. In 2004, a survey by ILO found that 43.1 percent of trafficked persons belong to Janjatis in Nepal. In 2004, a survey of the NHRC of India found that 70% of the victims were from deprived sections of society”.

“Trafficking of Myanmarese nationals is interlinked with the political situation in Myanmar and without improvement of the situation in that country, trafficking of Burmese nationals is unlikely to end. But such issues are often sidelined by diplomatic niceties” – asserted Chakma.

Asian Centre for Human Rights recommended to the Inter-Governmental Conference which is discussing the issue of combating trafficking to ensure collection of disaggregated data of the victims of trafficking on the basis of their ethnic origin and nationality, amend the Nationality Laws of Thailand and Provision of the People's Republic of China on Household Registration of 1958, ensure a cheaper and simpler method for issuing work permits for all migrants including the provision of better information about the rights of migrants and their families and effective inspection of workplaces to ensure compliance with labor standards and the enforcement of legislation combating human trafficking, recognise the rights of refugees and ensure proper registration of all refugees and internally displaced persons; ensure proper rehabilitation for the IDPs and access adequate humanitarian assistance including to the United Nations and humanitarian agencies; and to institutionalise cross border cooperation by signing bilateral and multilateral agreements, among others, for sharing of information and apprehension and prosecution of the traffickers and their agents.


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