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Burma’s Dictatorship fuels Child Trafficking

Nyunt Than
Burmese American Democratic Alliance (BADA)
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March 7, 2002 -- It has been forty years that dictators rule Burma - since March 2, 1962. Many have suffered: from the violent deaths on the streets of Burma to the child sex slaves in brothels in Thailand. Thousands of Burmese girls are working in Thai's sex industry as prostitutes.

Their condition is described as modern day slavery, in which they earn little or no money, but suffer serious abuses such as debt bondage, illegal confinement, forced labor, rape, physical abuse, exposure to HIV-AIDS; and, in some cases, murder. Thousands of Burmese boys are now joining their fellow sisters in body-selling work in Thailand. While most boys enter into prostitution gradually from being migrant workers, girls are mostly illegally trafficked and forced.

Lengthy dictatorship in Burma leaves children with little or no hope of livelihood and make them look for better life in Thailand, Burma's neighbor. Their hope for better life have made them venerable to the cruel web of trafficking.

In fact, trafficking in person is a global problem, and mostly women and children from poor countries are the victims. While as many as 10,000 Burmese girls are trafficked into Thailand each year, up to 8,000 Nepalese girls are smuggled into brothels in big cities of India. And approximately 3000 children Albania have been trafficked to Grace and Italy to beg for money.

US State Department has released its first ever report, "Trafficking in Person" last July. The report estimates that at least 700,000 are trafficked each year around the world for commercial sexual exploitation alone. Asia Watch criticized that report because it overlooked other forms of trafficking such as swept shop laborers or domestic helpers. The figure for trafficking of all forms is estimated as high as 2 millions a year by the outgoing US government. There are no short of such cases: boys from poor villages of Southern Pakistan - agents’ ideal: aged between five and eight and weighing less than 17 kilos apiece, are smuggled to middle east to become Carmel Jokerys for the sporting fun of a wealthy Gulf sheik. The going rate for those boys is -$500-$1,000 a child. Rural villages in northern Thailand, parents often sell their daughters to brothels in southern Thailand, where prostitution along with business is thriving. The price per head for young girls varies from few hundreds to few thousands. But in African nation of Benin -- again in poor villages, the going rate for a child is only $14, to be sold again as cheap labor - boys to backbreaking work in the fields or a rock quarry, girls to sweep houses or peddle goods in the market. Children from Albania -- between 4 and 7 are especially prized since they make the most money, are being trafficked to neighboring European countries to beg for money. They must make their daily quota - about $12.50, to avoid being beaten by the owner. The traffickers will even 'rent' infants for female beggars.

Kevin Bales, a professor and expert on the subject of contemporary slavery: believes that “Slaves are cheaper today than they’ve ever been in human history.” He estimates there are 27 million people around the world living today as slaves - disposable people, he calls them.

Trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children are two elements of more pervasive problem of sexual abuse. Victims are at high risk of unwanted pregnancies and of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The minority of children who do manage to escape the sex trade face social stigma, family rejection, shame, fear of retribution, and the loss of future economic prospects.

 In its report, entitled "Profiting from Abuse" released last December during the "Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children"; UNICEF estimates that approximately one million children (mainly girls) enter the multi-billion dollar commercial sex trade every year.

The conference, held six years after the first one, concluded that the problem is growing. And the dictatorship in Burma is still going strong.