Trading Human Rights Away: Don’t Ignore Malaysian Human Trafficking to Advance TPP

United to End Genocide today implored the Obama administration to base its soon-to-be-released annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report on facts and not as a cynical means of advancing its proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Former U.S. Congressman Tom Andrews, President of United to End Genocide, wrote:

“I was alarmed to read news reports that the State Department is prepared to upgrade Malaysia’s ranking from Tier 3 to Tier 2 in the Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report that will be released next week.

I sincerely hope that these reports are untrue as the facts clearly contradict such an upgrade. The horrific conditions for victims of human trafficking in Malaysia – including desperate Rohingya asylum seekers from Burma – were revealed in the recent discovery of mass graves and the prison like conditions of the jungle camps run by ruthless traffickers. The existence of these camps underscores the failure of Malaysia, and other governments in the region, to meet their basic responsibility to stop pervasive human trafficking and its horrific toll on human lives. This failure occurred during the TIP assessment period ending in March and fueled the boat crises of Rohingya asylum seekers that captured the world’s attention this spring.

These news reports attribute the upgrade of Malaysia’s status not on improvements in the fight against the scourge of human trafficking but as a way to advance the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. If true, this would be outrageous. Not only would it undermine efforts to hold accountable those who are responsible for the abuses fueled by human trafficking in Southeast Asia, it would seriously undermine the credibility of the United States and the principles that we, as a nation, should stand for.

Mr. Secretary, it is imperative that the TIP report be based on the facts, not political or trade considerations. There is too much at stake for it to be anything else.”