US Senator ‘appalled’ by Daw Suu’s response to human trafficking concerns

A United States senator said he was “somewhat appalled” by the response he received from State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when he raised Myanmar’s record on human trafficking at a meeting in Washington, media reports said.

Republican Senator Bob Corker said he had raised the issue at a breakfast meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and Vice President Joe Biden on September 14.

“While we certainly appreciate the work Aung San Suu Kyi has done to ensure a democratic transition in Burma, I am somewhat appalled by her dismissive reaction to concerns I raised this morning about the problem of human trafficking in her country,” Corker said in a statement after the meeting, Reuters reported.

“After witnessing her lack of regard for Burma’s dismal track record on this issue, I plan to pay very close attention to her government’s efforts to prevent innocent human beings from being trafficked and sold into forced labor and sex slavery,” said Corker, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Washington newspaper Roll Call quoted Corker as saying that he found Aung San Suu Kyi to be “somewhat arrogant about the issue and dismissive, and I was very put off by her lack of concern”.

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In its annual Trafficking in Persons report in June, the US State Department downgraded Myanmar to the lowest level, known as tier three, on its watch list of countries regarded as not doing enough to combat human trafficking.

Myanmar had previously been on the tier two watch list. The change in status followed last year’s migration crisis in the Andaman Sea, when thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Rakhine State became stranded at sea after the dismantling of a regional trafficking network passing through Thailand and Malaysia. 

The downgrade was “regrettable”, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement at the time.

The decision had come at a time “when the new democratic government is stepping up its efforts to protect its migrant workers and victims of human trafficking and forced labour”, the statement said.

“Myanmar will continue to step up its efforts with regard to anti-trafficking measures, seriously taking into account recommendations made in the 2016 TIP Report. The issue of human smuggling and trafficking will be addressed vigorously in close cooperation with international partners,” the ministry said.

An event in Nay Pyi Taw on September 13 to mark Anti-Human Trafficking Day was told that the Anti Trafficking in Persons Law was being updated.

The head of the government anti-trafficking taskforce, Police Lieutenant-Colonel Thet Naung, said it was hoped to submit a draft of the updated law to parliament by the end of the year, media reports said.

Thet Naung expressed disappointment that the taskforce did not recent greater cooperation from Thailand and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as China, the report said.

Taskforce records show that 62 percent of human trafficking cases involve people sent to China.

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