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One hundred and two cases of human trafficking were reported in Burma throughout 2013, according to the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (ATTF), a special unit of the Burmese police force.
Police Lt-Col Min Naing of the ATTF in Naypyidaw said that of the 102 trafficked persons, 59 were taken to China, 21 to Thailand and 22 remained in-country. The vast majority of victims were from Burma’s war-torn eastern Shan State.
More than half of the cases, he said, resulted in forced marriage, while another 24 involved forced prostitution. Also reported were 20 cases of enslavement and two cases of forced adoption.
“There was also one case of enslavement for debt, which is unique,” said the official.
The Lt-Col said the human trafficking rate in 2013 had declined in recent years because of improvements in governmental cooperation along the borders, but the Palaung Women’s Organisation (PWO) says otherwise.
“We have not seen the rate decline yet; it has increased,” said De De Poe Jaine, general-secretary of the NGO, which is based in Lashio, Shan State. “There are at least 4 or 5 human trafficking cases in every [Palaung] village.”
De De Poe Jaine told DVB that the problem affects nearly every village in northern Shan State, a region riddled with heroin addiction and scarred by ongoing civil conflict between the Burmese army and several ethnic militias, including the Ta’ang (Palaung) National Liberation Army, which is allied with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the area.
The PWO insists that despite reports of improvement by the police force, trafficking remains an enormous threat to Shan State ethnic villagers, particularly young women.
“There are drug issues in the Palaung region, civil conflict and economic decline, forcing local populations to leave their villages,” said De De Poe Jaine.
Likewise, the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand reported in June 2013 that the protracted conflict between the KIA and the Burmese Army has intensified pressure on Kachin villagers to flee across the Sino-Burmese border, resulting in extreme and increased vulnerability to trafficking.