The fight to end modern day slavery may be facing a significant setback in the days ahead. Troubling reports are emerging ahead of the release of the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, suggesting that political consideration around the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal may be trumping a major human rights crisis in Southeast Asia.
Malaysia, in particular, is said to be receiving an upgrade despite no apparent improvement in its efforts to fight human trafficking. In fact, recent events suggest that the situation has gotten worse. The extent of the human trafficking pandemic in the region became widely apparent with the recent discovery of mass graves in trafficking camps along the Thai-Malaysia border and the crisis at sea in which thousands of Rohingya escaping the threat of genocide in Burma and other victims of traffickers were trapped at sea.
But such developments are not going unnoticed. Activists and policymakers from around the world are voicing their concerns. U.S. Congressman and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Joe Pitts and Malaysian Member of Parliament and Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights Charles Santiago have joined their voices in a powerful letter to President Obama urging that, “Political considerations, whether related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership or otherwise, should not trump serious human rights concerns.”
Read the full letter below.