Myanmar tunes in to message on modern slavery
17 December, 2012
Full house in People's Square in Yangon, Myanmar for the MTV EXIT Live in Myanmar. Photo: MTV EXIT
Min Aung did not know the promised job was a trap to enslave him.
In Myanmar he earned just $3 a day, so he paid an 'employment agent' to transport him and his pregnant wife to work in a factory in Thailand.
They were put to work peeling prawns for up to 19 hours a day, seven days a week. Instead of being paid a salary, they were told they owed money. After two years of forced labour, Thai police freed Min Aung and his wife—along with 800 men, women, and children.
Min Aung's story is now used by MTV's End Exploitation and Trafficking (EXIT) campaign (external website) to warn young people across Asia about how to avoid becoming trafficking victims.
MTV brought its message to Myanmar in the first international music concert held in the nation—staged with support by Australia, the US and the Walk Free movement.
The concert follows MTV EXIT workshops with young Myanmar leaders on using creativity, media and the arts to raise awareness about trafficking in their own communities.
Myanmar's 18 million teenagers and children are vulnerable to trafficking because they have more ambition to travel in the region to escape poverty.
Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in South-East Asia. An estimated two million people from Myanmar have crossed the border to work in Thailand. While this is the sign of a dynamic regional economy, it also provides opportunities for traffickers to prey on the vulnerable or uninformed.
Traffickers trick or force men and boys to work in factories, farms, building sites and fishing boats. Their passports are often confiscated, and they are deceived, threatened, beaten and paid meagre wages, if at all, for dirty and dangerous work.
Women and girls are often forced to work as domestic servants, or worse, in brothels, enduring exploitation most of us could never imagine. Women like Kyi Kyi have been trafficked into forced marriages.
A trafficker tricked Kyi Kyi to travel to Myanmar's border with China for a promise of a job as a domestic worker that could give her financial independence. At the border she was told a Chinese man had bought her to be his bride. Threatened with abuse and told she had an enormous debt to repay, Kyi Kyi crossed the border. She refused to marry the man despite months of beatings and forced labour and escaped at her first opportunity. The Chinese police helped her to return to Myanmar where she now tells her story at gatherings of trafficking survivors.
The International Labour Organization estimates that at any moment there are almost 21 million victims of exploitative labour conditions in the world. Criminals earn an estimated $10 billion every year through buying and selling people.
Australia is preventing vulnerable young people across Asia from becoming trafficking victims by supporting MTV EXIT's awareness-raising activities.
MTV EXIT has informed and engaged 70 million young people across Asia through youth leadership forums, documentaries, TV and radio stories, social media, live concerts and community awareness-raising activities.
Australia supports the important efforts of the non-government and private sectors in ending the scourge of trafficking. The launch of Walk Free's global movement to end modern slavery (external website) is a welcome initiative.
Australia is taking a lead role in combating human traffickers in Asia by strengthening the criminal justice systems of countries including Myanmar.
Last month in Cambodia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard (external website) announced we will support investigators and prosecutors to increase convictions and reduce opportunities for trafficking. We will also support victims of trafficking through the criminal justice process.
This will be essential for a sustainable, long-term approach to stopping trafficking and labour exploitation—one that aims to prevent people from becoming victims in the first place.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery and a gross abuse of human rights. It is the business of all good governments to reduce this evil trade in people's lives.
Last Reviewed: 17 December, 2012