The National Anti-Human Trafficking Action Plan, which will be launched on Tuesday by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, has received full support from several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which said that the emphasis should be given to its implementation.
The five-year plan (2010-2015) is aimed at eradicating child labour, sex trafficking and labour trafficking in the country.
Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Nora Murat, said the association welcomed this effort by the government but added the existing acts did not mean anything without proper implementation.
“Sometimes, strict punishment has a deterrent effect. The punishment could be 20 years imprisonment, but how will it work if the implementation is not stressed? The government, therefore, needs to put in serious effort to eliminate human trafficking in Malaysia,” she said.
Temme Lee, the Refuge Coordinator of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) said: “The penalty for the offences is not an issue. Rather, the government should look at better enforcement of the plan.”
She also said that currently there was lot of focus on sex trafficking when the number of labour trafficking was very much higher.
“Both labour and sex trafficking should be given equal attention.”
When asked if she thought that the punishment for human trafficking as well as human smuggling should be tightened, she said the existing punishment under the related acts were adequate for now.
Currently, those caught for people smuggling could be charged under the Immigration Act which carries a penalty of a RM15,000 fine or three years’ imprisonment, or both.
Under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act 2007, a person guilty of committing the offence could be sentenced to 20 years jail or fined RM500,000, or both.
Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said that although he welcomed the move of the government to launch the National Anti-Human Trafficking Action Plan, ultimately, there should be enough resources to ensure the success of its implementation.
“Internationally, human trafficking is a severe problem. Even in Malaysia, the problem is getting more serious by the day, in which the middlemen make money out of poor people. But without adequate enforcement resources, this will be a difficult problem to tackle,” he said.
Siva also said the plan should include the recruitment of more marine officers as the sea is often used for human trafficking activities.
On top of that, he said, creating greater public awareness of the problem is extremely vital in eradicating it. He said existing punishment for offenders of human trafficking was sufficient for the moment.
“The government must make sure that the plan is enforced and the culprits punished accordingly,” he added.
Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez said that not enough attention was given to human rights, particularly when it comes to the victims of human trafficking.
“The whole issue does not address the rights of the victims. They are addressing the problem as a crime. For example, if a victim is rescued from human trafficking, does he or she know his or her rights? Do the prosecutors and the police know the rights of the victims?” she asked.
As such, Fernandez feels that in order for the victims to learn their rights, the human rights framework must be clearly defined in the National Anti-Human Trafficking Action Plan.
She also said the government must address the issue of labour trafficking in the country more effectively as the number of cases pertaining to the problem is very high.
A local daily recently reported that Home Ministry secretary-general, Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam, said that a specific charge to act against human smuggling is in the making, as Malaysia tightens its laws on human trafficking, said to be the world’s third most “lucrative” venture after drugs and arms trafficking.
Mahmood said the Attorney-General’s Chambers has yet to decide whether to place the human trafficking charges and penalties under the Immigration Act or the Anti-Human Trafficking Act as they are in the midst of drafting the amendment papers to be tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat session.
Statistics from 2008 until March 15 this year showed that there were 202 human trafficking cases with 282 people arrested while 1,252 were rescued.
The offences involve sex exploitation (143), forced services (43), human trafficking (11), baby sale (4) and exploitation of children for visa (1).
The victims were from various countries, including China (290), Sri Lanka (216), Indonesia (203), Thailand (130) and the Philippines (125).