Saturday, June 14, 2008

We should stop letting US dictate our LIFE...

The United States of America calls the shots and "all" the nations of the world jumps up and pathetically follows suit. After that 9-11 (or should it be 11-9, as it happened on 11th of September) incident concerning them Twin-Towers, the US started a war on terror. And out they went drawing up lists of countries that supported terrorism. Malaysia, I believe, was at one time on this lists. Countries, not to be subjected from pressure, jumped up and down doing everything that the US said needed to be done. For us in Malaysia, we had the famous Al-Maunah case as that indicator that we in Malaysia will take serious action against "terrorists". 3 of them were sentenced to death, and have allegedly already been executed. Some still wonder whether there was really that whole "Al-Maunah" incident or was it just a "sandiwara"(a play-acting). Malaysians did not believe that incident, and very few even bothered to follow the proceedings of that case. But when the decision was made at the end - it seemed that there was a 30 minute program on it in Al-Jazeera (I did not see it BUT I heard it from friends - not sure).

Then there was the whole issue of Intellectual Property and Copy Rights -- and again because of the US pressure (or rather to please the US), Malaysian government started cracking-down on pirated VCD /CD/DVD - they even had a couple of dogs brought in to smell out pirated stuff.

Of late, the new pet project of the US is Trafficking of Human Persons. And again, countries like Malaysia are yet again jumping up and down -- worried about which list they are being put on by the US. It seems that reading the recent Malay Mail report tells us that the US has found us doing better and have put us in a new "Tier" - why do we even bother about what the US does or think...

In Malaysia, there are about 2.2 million migrant workers, and about 2-5 million undocumented migrant workers.

These undocumented migrants usually sneak into the country by themselves, or are assisted by some persons for a fee - and the later are them "smugglers". They are NOT traffickers.

The slave traders of good oled USA were human traffickers - whereby the took people without their consent and forced them into slavery. Is this pre-occupation with trafficking now a sign of repentance for a people who were the biggest 'human traffickers' at one time.

SEX WORKERS - yes, this do exist. Women (and even men) use their bodies and their mind as sex workers by choice. Sometimes, they are self-employed, sometimes they work for some other. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, we have not yet recognized "sex work" as work - and this is something that we must seriously consider.

In any event, sometime it is sad how the media and "we" do condemn persons to be 'prostitute', "sex workers", etc... and the only recent is because they are well dressed pleasant women, usually not from Malaysia, who were arrested in some pub or karaoke -- WHY? Is it wrong for such women to patronize such places - I do not think so. Did you catch them having sex? Did you catch them asking for money for sexual favours? Did you catch them receiving money for sex? But then, why...why do you brand them "prostitute" -- and why do the Immigration Department charge them for violation of their social visit pass. Many a time, these foreign tourist or migrants just want to get back to their own country and away from this "bad treatment" accorded to them in Malaysia - and so we do not see any defamation suits yet.

If I was one such women, and the media potrayed and called me "prostitute" or gave the impression that I was such, I would sue the Newspaper, and the relevant authorities. Violation of social visit pass - prove it. But then sadly, many lawyers and judges are also similarly prejudiced...

Not to say that there is no trafficking happening -- there is but the numbers is not as significant as the US wants us to believe.

But why should we bother what the US thinks - their track record in human rights is pathetic.

Malaysia a centre for sex and labour traders

Sheila Rahman
MALAYSIA is still a destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for women and children trafficked as sex slaves.

If it is not sex, then it is forced labour and even slavery too of men, women and children.

In the just released global assessment Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 of the US Department of State, Malaysia is among 40 countries that have been placed on a Tier 2 Special Watch List of countries.

These countries are under scrutiny for sex trafficking — by force, fraud and coercion — and the treatment of migrant labour subjected to “involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery”.

The bit of good news is that Malaysia’s record has improved slightly, as in the 2007 report Malaysia was in the worst category, Tier 3.

“Concrete steps still need to be taken to address both sex trafficking and labour trafficking,” said National Human Rights Society (Hakam) executive committee member Alice Nah, who is also co-coordinator of the Migration Working Group, a network of civil society groups lobbying for the protection of migrants, refugees and stateless persons.

Nah said the reason for Malaysia moving up a notch to the second tier was most likely because of the recently enacted Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007.

“While this is definitely a positive step forward, realities on the ground have not changed significantly. In fact, some Malaysian government policies and practices still contribute directly to human trafficking,” she alleged.

“For example, the Malaysian government continues to arrest, detain and deport asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons from Myanmar. Deportees tell us that the authorities hand them over to smugglers or traffickers at the Malaysia-Thai border, who force them to pay between RM1,400 and RM2,500 for their release and return to Malaysia.” Apparently, the men who are unable to pay are sold to work on deep sea fishing boats while the women are sold to brothels.

Nah said there was also a high incidence of migrant workers caught in work situations that are very different from what they were promised in their home countries.

“They are cheated and exploited, but then find it almost impossible to seek redress. They are often forced to work in order to pay off debts incurred because of exorbitant recruitment fees. This constitutes bonded labour,” she explained.

In the introduction to the report, the first mention of Malaysia is in a boxed story that reads: “’It’s like I’m out of hell,’ proclaimed Indonesian worker Arum after his experience in Malaysia. He spent seven months on a rubber plantation working 13 hours a day, seven days a week without pay, until he escaped — only to be arrested, imprisoned, flogged, and deported.” While stating that the Malaysian government is making significant efforts, the global assessment Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 states that it does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

“Malaysia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts from the previous year to tackle its large and multi-dimensional trafficking problem, including its forced labour problem.” While the migrant workers come willingly into the country, some are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude by Malaysian employers in the domestic, agricultural, construction, plantation, and industrial sectors, the report stated.

“Some migrant workers are victimised by their employers, employment agents, or traffickers that supply migrant labourers and victims of sex trafficking. Victims suffer conditions including physical and sexual abuse, debt bondage, non-payment of wages, threats, confinement, and withholding of travel documents to restrict their freedom of movement.

“In addition, some female domestics from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Mongolia, and China are forced into commercial sexual exploitation after being deceived with promises of jobs or after running away from abusive employers.” Individual employment agents apparently sold women and girls into brothels, karaoke bars, or passed them to sex traffickers.

Some Myanmar nationals registered with the United Nations as refugees, a status not recognised by the Malaysian government, are vulnerable to being trafficked for forced labour.

To a lesser extent, some Malaysian women, primarily of Chinese ethnicity, are trafficked abroad for prostitution.

While the government had commendably enacted comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation in July 2007, it completed development of implementing guidelines, training of key law enforcement and social service officers, and issued legislative supplements to bring the law fully into force in late February 2008.

However, the report stated that no action had yet been taken against exploitative employers or labour traffickers during the reporting period and neither had the government widely implemented mechanisms to screen victims of trafficking from vulnerable groups.

An interagency National Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons, that includes representatives from civil society, had drafted a national action plan, and in March this year, Women, Family, and Community Development Ministry opened two trafficking victims’ shelters and began assisting foreign victims of sex trafficking.

However, Nah said, requests to visit these shelters had yet to materialise.

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