Malaysia is the No 1 destination of Indonesian victims of human trafficking, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
Out of 1,231 Indonesians who were trafficked from March 2005 to July 2006, 929 of them (75.5 per cent) were taken to Malaysia, where they were forced into prostitution or work as domestic maids.
John Miller, director of the US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, who attended the Bali Process workshop on victims’ support, called human trafficking "a modern-day slavery", a scourge which governments and non-governmental organisations should work together to eradicate.
"We’re talking about slavery that goes on everywhere in the world, including the United States and Indonesia. Some countries are source countries. Indonesia is a source country," he said. Also, young children between the ages of 13 and 14 from Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and Vietnam are being trafficked to Johor, where they are forced to become sex workers.
"We are against child sex trade. We want governments to punish the perpetrators," said Sally Neumann from the Trafficking in Persons Office. Paedophiles travel to poor third world countries like Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam in search of sex with children.
Miller said many of the paedophiles came from developed Western and Asian countries. To encourage foreign governments to crack down on perpetrators, the US passed laws 2½ years ago to prosecute and jail Americans who are found to have engaged in sex with children overseas.
"If an American tourist goes overseas and engages in child sex tourism, then, when he comes back, he can go to jail for 20 to 30 years," said Miller. We’ve had 15 to 20 Americans extradited from Cambodia and jailed." In Kuala Lumpur, Federal Criminal Investigations Department deputy director II (Administration) Datuk Syed Ismail Syed Azizan said the police and government were aware of the human trafficking trade.
"We are doing our best, but we don’t have the expertise to identify human trafficking victims," he said. "We are working with Interpol and intelligence from different countries to help us combat the menace." Ismail said it was the practice for police to hand over the perpetrators or victims to the immigration department, and these people were deported home. "Sometimes it is hard for us to know if they are perpetrators or victims."
Ismail said Malaysia needed an Anti-Trafficking Act to punish those involved in trafficking human beings. "The culprits get away as they are let off easily under the Penal Code, Immigration Act and Child Act. As a result, only victims are punished while traffickers, perpetrators and ‘clients’ escape punishment."
Police statistics showed that about 5,000 foreign women were arrested for prostitution between November 2003 and 2006, mostly Indonesians, Chinese nationals, Thais, and Filipinos.
Adapted from: "Malaysia top destination for Indonesian victims." New Straits Times. 5 November 2006.
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