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After two years of war and displacement in northern Burma’s Kachin state, more people are being trafficked along the Sino-Burmese border, according to a report published by the Kachin Women’s Association-Thailand (KWAT) on Wednesday.
In “Pushed to the brink”, KWAT documented 24 instances of individuals who were trafficked after the Burmese military ended a 17-year ceasefire and launched an offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in June 2011.
According to KWAT, the documented cases in the report “represent only a small fraction of the actual trafficking cases” that have occurred since hostilities erupted.
“We wanted to highlight to the international community that economic hardship leads to an increase in human trafficking,” said Sai Shang, KWAT general secretary, during an interview with DVB.
“Despite the government’s claim that the country is opening up, there are various issues that have yet to be solved.”
As business groups and politicians flock to Naypyidaw for the World Economic Forum in East Asia (WEF) this week, the group urged “governments and investors to review their policy on Burma”.
While the reforms instituted under Thein Sein’s government have led to the removal of most sanctions targeting the country, the military offensive against the KIA has cast a dark shadow over the nascent political developments in the country.
Since fighting commenced just two years ago, approximately 100,000 people have been uprooted and are now living in displacement camps.
Over the course of the two-year conflict, Thein Sein’s government has constituently blocked international aid organisations from accessing IDP camps under KIO-control, while China refuses to provide Kachins from seeking refuge across the border, said the report.
In August 2012, the Chinese government even went so far as to force thousands of Kachins seeking refuge in the country back across the border into Burma.
“Push tens of thousands of people to China’s doorstep, deprive them of food and status, and you’ve created a perfect storm for human trafficking,” said KWAT spokesperson Julia Marip in a press release.
Once trafficking victims are illegally moved across the border into China, they are then sold as brides and labourers.
According to one NGO worker DVB spoke with in 2012, trafficking agents have been seen eyeing displacement camps and offer families sums of money as a dowry for their daughters, in accordance with local customs.
While the KIA and government negotiators agreed to a preliminary truce last week, the Kachin have refused to sign another ceasefire with Naypyidaw until ethnic minorities are granted greater political autonomy.
During a debate hosted by the BBC at the WEF in the capital, President’s Office Minister Soe Thane said that the country’s leaders were considering adopting a federal system of governance to bring an end to the country’s myriad civil wars.
“We are thinking about the federalism – that is the sharing of power, the sharing of resources,” said Soe Thane.
“Federalism had another definition. Now federalism is not like that definition. It is power sharing and resource sharing and equality for the [ethnic nationalities].”