KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's upgrade from Tier 3, the lowest rank on the United States annual report on human trafficking, shows that although it has not met the minimum standards to eliminate the scourge, it is making efforts to do so.
"Tier 2 Watchlist is far from a clean bill of health," says US Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Yun. But the Malaysian Government had discussed amendments to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act with non-governmental organisations, he noted.
Prosecutions had risen over the reporting period by about 60%, he added, and nearly 700 officials had been trained in handling trafficking cases.
But he hopes to see the conviction rate, which had fallen, improve. And when the amendments to the Act, which were recently passed, are implemented he hopes for better protection of trafficking victims and freedom for them to move around and work.
Yun dismissed speculation that the upgrade was motivated by a desire for Malaysia to be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Recent legislation bars the US from trade deals with countries in Tier 3.
"It has nothing to do with trade," he stressed, adding that it was "a technical thing" based on how much the Government had done to combat trafficking.
"We've been in discussion with Malaysia long before the Menendez amendment to bar the US from having trade agreements with countries in Tier 3, a couple months ago," he pointed out.
Yun also noted that Malaysia had been compulsorily downgraded to Tier 3 in the previous report because a country cannot remain on Tier 2 watchlist for more than two years without a waiver and for a total of four years which would include two waivers. It is certainly not a Tier 3 country, which does not make efforts to meet minimum standards, he added.
Commenting on the discovery of 28 human trafficking camps and 139 graves in Perlis, near the border with Thailand in May this year--after the reporting period for the trafficking report--the envoy noted that the Malaysian government had investigated.
"It took a leadership role in bringing Ministers together and holding meetings," he added. "Malaysia was forthcoming in leading the regional response."Now he hopes for the arrest of the ringleaders.