"With this Association’s support, we now have more participation by government stakeholders in our human trafficking project activities." - Local CSO comment
Retired civil servants in Tachileik are putting their past professional experience into practice to combat trafficking in persons (TIP). With a grant from the USAID-funded, Tetra Tech implemented Promoting the Rule of Law Project, Mawk Kon Local Development Organization (MKLDO) partnered with the Tachileik Retired Civil Servants Association to capitalize on the former civil servants’ knowledge of human trafficking prevention strategies.
The Association is comprised of retired senior officials from government agencies including the judiciary, immigration, land registration, general administration, police force, national planning, rural development, and education. Four executive committee members of the Tachileik Association completed a training of trainers (TOT) program on Human Trafficking and Migration delivered by MKLDO. After completing the training program, the new trainers conducted trafficking awareness sessions in their communities. Drawing from their experience and standing in the community, the trainers impart compelling and relevant knowledge during these sessions, which helps convince participants to seek safe migration and understand the pitfalls of human trafficking in the region.
MKLDO’s trafficking project offers prevention services directed toward youth and women in Kengtung and Tachileik Township in Eastern Shan State. Project activities include raising awareness of the human trafficking law, training and workshops, information, education, and communication development, and public campaigns in urban and rural areas. MKLDO conducted a local situational analysis on migration and trafficking trends before providing TOT sessions using this analysis to tailor their trainings to community needs and build a coordinated approach with key stakeholders to effectively combat TIP.
Recently, MKLDO organized a meeting to build a bridge between small rural CSOs and the Tachileik Retired Civil Servants Association. The Association now allows these CSOs to use its office space for meetings/workshops and utilizes the Associations’ skills, knowledge, and network to support the CSOs. Since many members of the Association are retired senior government officials, members have the respect and cooperation of government departments, as well as the community. With its support and experience, the Association is strengthening coordination and cooperation between local CSOs and government institutions to address TIP and protect human rights.
Legal Clinic Myanmar conducts stakeholder meetings in local community.
Phyu Phyu* is a 15-year-old girl who dropped out of primary school in the Kyone Kan village in Irrawaddy Region. She lives in a remote area with her mother who suffers from mental illness. She was raped and beaten by a 19-year-old man from a wealthy village family. Phyu suffered physical injuries to her face and body, including a broken arm, as well as mental trauma from the attack. Her aunt contacted the Myanmar Women’s Affairs (MWA) organization, which sent a paralegal trained by the Legal Clinic Myanmar (LCM) to meet Phyu while she was still in the hospital. LCM is funded by a grant from the Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), a USAID-funded activity implemented by Tetra Tech. The paralegal shared information about LCM services and connected Phyu with the local LCM office in Pyarpone Township.
LCM provided a lawyer who supported Phyu Phyu throughout the case, acting as her advocate to help her understand the legal process and instructing her how to be an effective witness. The lawyer reviewed court statements from the police and the victim to ensure they were accurate. On March 28, 2018 , after a trial, the judge convicted the perpetrator and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. LCM also provided social support and counseling for Phyu Phyu and connected her with the Department of Social Welfare and World Vision to provide Phyu with further medical treatment.
LCM, with grant funding from PRLP, provides legal aid services in 9 townships, including 7 townships in Irrawaddy (Pyarpon, Dedaye, Kyeik Latt, Pathein, Kangyidaung, Kyaung Kone, and Yaykyi) and 2 townships in Kachin State (Myitkyina and Wine Maw). LCM established offices in Pyarpon and Myitkyina to offer free legal aid services. The offices are currently handling 57 court cases, have provided legal advice, counseling, and mediation services in 212 cases (118 in Irrawaddy and 94 in Kachin) and operate a 24-hour legal aid hotline in both areas to facilitate these services.
LCM also provides social support for victims/survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Their work has increased access to justice for marginalized populations, not only through the provision of legal and social services, but by engagement with local government authorities and justice sector stakeholders, including roundtable discussions in the 9 target townships. PRLP provides technical assistance, capacity development, and grants to promote Myanmar’s democratic transition. PRLP support to LCM, and other civil society organizations has built these organizations’ capacity to engage in advocacy, promote the rule of law, and protect human rights in Myanmar.
KMSS seeks to prevent TIP by working with local communities to identify vulnerabilities and raise awareness about the pitfalls of migration. They participate in regional level coordination meetings with other CSOs and youth networks.
U Yar Naung is a farmer from a remote village in Kengtung, Shan State, where he is the leader of a community watch group (CWG). The CWGs have been organized by Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS) with grant funding from the USAID-funded, Tetra Tech implemented, Promoting the Rule of Law Project. Members of the CWGs that are from the Akhar tribe, are mostly illiterate and are more than 50 per cent women. With support from KMSS, the CWGs are conducting awareness trainings about Trafficking in Persons (TIP), using their new knowledge to discuss the issue at social events, work places, and in their travel in and around Kengtung. Villagers are now familiar with the CWG members and have begun reporting when they notice strangers or encounter employment brokers who are seeking to place workers in foreign countries. CWGs also educate potential migrants that they should never provide advance funding to a broker without legitimate documentation.
In the past, villagers commonly migrated to Thailand or China for seasonal work on tea and coffee plantations, earning only about $250 in 3-4 months. In these border areas there is a large demand for agricultural, packaging, and handicraft workers. Traffickers look for girls as young as 13 to 16 to work in night clubs, restaurants, and massage parlors. KMSS faces significant challenges as it seeks to prevent human trafficking and address illegal migration, including the lack of legitimate employment agencies and cross border relations.
Recently, a CWG managed to protect a 20-month old girl when an alert member noticed the girl was missing. The CWG member observed the man leave the village with his daughter and return without the child. When questioned about the child, the man admitted to selling her for the equivalent of less than $400 and using the money to purchase a motorcycle. The CWG member contacted KMSS and a local police officer who works with the Anti-Trafficking Task Force. The next day the police successfully found and returned the child to her mother, who took the child back to her village. The mother had lost custody of the child 4 months before in divorce proceedings.
KMSS is a faith-based social network that has been working to promote safe migration and prevent TIP since 2014 though awareness activities, information resource centers, and coordination with relevant government and community actors. Their CWGs have proven successful in developing a community based approach to protect local citizens and address vulnerabilities.
ILAM is working to build an independent, inclusive and sustainable national lawyers’ association that can protect the rights of clients and enhance the rule of law in Myanmar.
Since its inception in 2014, the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM) has nearly doubled its membership as it works to develop an inclusive, independent, and sustainable national bar association. Recent ILAM membership events and continuing education programs have focused on the importance of an independent bar that not only supports the rights of clients, but also serves as a check on democratic institutions. ILAM was officially registered in November 2016. Under the USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), Tetra Tech provided grant funding that allowed the ILM to expand, opening offices and libraries around the country and building relations with other justice sector actors.
ILAM recently conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at their newest law library in Yangon attended by approximately 80 participants and 10 media outlets. The PRLP Chief of Party, Teresa Cannady, provided opening remarks about the role of a bar association and the importance of providing legal information to the public. The library will allow lawyers to better serve their clients and improve citizens’ access to justice. In addition to the PRLP grant, ILAM members donated books and CD-ROMs with legal materials to the library. With PRLP support, ILAM has opened two other libraries in Monywa and Pathein which serve as important resource hubs for lawyers and communities.
ILAM recently conducted another membership event for approximately 200 lawyers. At the event in Taunggyi, Shan State, the new ILAM Executive Director outlined the role of the secretariat and its plans for the coming year; other presenters emphasized the importance of building the independence of the legal profession in Myanmar. Using the PRLP Legal Aid Toolkit, ILAM also completed several professional development workshops to build trial skills of lawyers and help them better advocate for the rights of their clients. The ILAM Chairman participated in a U.S. study tour, led by PRLP, in late February where he learned more about the role of independent bar associations.
Beyond the life of this grant, PRLP will continue to work with ILAM as they seek to improve the rule of law in Myanmar by providing a higher level of service to clients and members. ILAM recognizes the need for an independent bar association as part of an effective justice sector and for the protection of human rights, and is working to make that a reality.
Legal Aid Lawyers conduct legal awareness session with local community.
Access to victim/survivor support is critical to serve citizens and protect their human rights. Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) recently provided a grant to Genuine People’s Servants (GPS), a local Myanmar CSO , to provide victim’s services to a young rape victim in Hlaing Thar Yar township. Thazin* is a 16-year old high school girl who was raped by a 23-year-old man. Fearful and depressed by this intimate abuse, she quit school and withdrew from the community.
Thazin’s parents helped her pursue criminal charges with the local township prosecution office. At the trial last August, six witnesses supported her case and a doctor provided medical evidence of the rape. Despite substantial evidence against him, the man received a sentence of only eighteen months in prison, which was reduced due to time he served in detention prior to trial. Thazin and her family felt the sentence was unfair based on the severity of the crime and the significant evidence which was presented at court.
In January of 2018, Thazin and her parents consulted with GPS to pursue a criminal revision to enhance the rape sentence. A GPS attorney filed a motion with the court and spent two months actively pursuing the case on behalf of Thazin. Thanks to the attorney’s efforts, the motion was granted and the perpetrator was re-sentenced to seven years in prison. Criminal revisions are not easy to achieve, but the legal aid lawyer provided sound legal reasoning and utilized effective trial skills to win the enhancement proceeding. In addition to supporting Thazin and her family, GPS proved its willingness and commitment to protect community members. This type of effort is the key to building trust between civil society and community members who are often skeptical of the motives and skill of legal aid lawyers.
GPS currently manages two grants awarded by PRLP to raise awareness and offer legal services, including one focused on trafficking in persons (TIP). GPS has opened three branch offices in Hlaing Tharyar Township–Yangon Region, Bilin Township–Mon State, and Salingyi Township–Sagaing Region. They train paralegals, provide legal aid services, and raise awareness of legal rights and TIP. GPS has provided legal advice in 180 cases, procedural assistance in 100 cases, and submitted 20 complaint letters to government institutions. They also have provided legal representation in 90 court cases.
California Judicial Commission discusses ethics and disciplinary procedures with participants
Tetra Tech’s Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) is supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition not only by building a better understanding of rule of law, but by supporting ongoing efforts to make it a reality for the people of Myanmar and not just a concept imagined for others. For more than 4 years, PRLP has supported Myanmar courts, prosecutors, lawyers, and civil society to improve justice services and better protect human rights. To ensure that these reforms can be applied in practice, PRLP successfully completed a two-week study tour in the U.S. during the second half of February focusing on critical topics such as ethics, training, legal aid, specialized courts, and the importance of collaboration among various justice sector actors.
Ten representatives from the Union Supreme Court, Attorney General’s Office, Union Legal Aid Board (ULAB), Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar, and the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament (Hluttaw), participated in the study tour in San Francisco, California and Reno, Nevada. Participants were exposed to collaborative courts and modern prosecution practices, and visited legal aid clinics, a public defender office, and a bar association. Training and ethics were a special focus for participants visiting the National Judicial College, the Federal Courts, and the California Judicial Commission. Participants also met with prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and pre-trial services personnel. A meeting with the California District Attorneys Association provided valuable information about pre-trial investigation, working collaboratively with witnesses and victims, and training for prosecutors. Legal aid clinics and the public defender office offered various models for the ULAB to consider in their implementation of the new legal aid law.
The group commented on how the U.S. system focuses on problem solving and collaboration and expressed the will to bring this focus to the Myanmar justice system. They appreciated the passion demonstrated by the justice sector professionals in serving the public and protecting human rights. Participants were inspired and energized to apply their knowledge from the trip to the local context in Myanmar. Having recently finalized their own 5-year Judicial Strategic Plan, Supreme Court Justices encouraged the Myanmar participants to work together with them, applying the models from the U.S., to achieve the goals of their strategy. The study tour offered a clear case of “seeing is believing,” giving participants the incentive to make rule of law a reality in Myanmar.
TCDN conducts community forum, bringing together various stakeholders, to address trafficking in persons and safe migration
Human rights abuses are all too common in border areas of Myanmar. However, Thwee Community Development Network (TCDN), through a grant from Tetra Tech’s Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), is addressing these abuses by utilizing interactive forums to engage the community. Recently, TCDN held an Anti-Trafficking and Safe Migration Forum at Myawaddy for 130 participants (53 women and 77 men) from 34 organizations, including civil society, the Kayin State Parliament, media, religious leaders, and government departments from both Myanmar and Thailand. The forum sought to:
The forum was an interactive process with 5 discussion groups focused on trafficking issues, rights of women and children, safe migration, health and education of migrant worker’s children, and drug and gambling prevention. Over a two-day period, group leaders facilitated a process that identified issues and developed solutions that fit with the local community. Recommendations from the groups were compiled and presented to Members of Parliament and key stakeholders to build commitment for change and promote new measures at the regional parliament. The forum also included role plays based on true stories and songs for active participation by community members and high school students.
Through their grant, TCDN is collaborating with various government officials and community organizations to support victims/survivors by providing counseling and safe houses. Additional activities include advocacy meetings and workshops with local government officials. Their community based approach continues to bring together local citizens and government officials to find the best solutions to assist victim/survivors and protect vulnerable populations. With support from PRLP, TCDN continues to provide a more inclusive and responsive approach to addressing TIP and preventing human rights abuses.
U Nyein Chan conducts CWG session with students to increase knowledge of how to protect themselves from trafficking in persons
U Nyein Chan, a village farmer, is a chairperson of a community watch group (CWG) serving the Asho Chin tribe in a remote area of Aung Lan Township in Magwe. He has participated in the CWG since July 2017 when he completed the Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS) trafficking in persons training. U Nyein Chan was inspired to complete the training after he observed many instances of human trafficking in his village. One specific case involved Ko Tun* who was enslaved in an off-shore fishery near Malaysia for over 15 years. After being rescued by the Malaysian government, he was repatriated with support from the Myanmar government, but suffered deeply with depression from the experience. To avoid this fate for others, U Nyein Chan organizes community awareness sessions, not only in his village, but also with primary and middle school students. He also works with potential migrant workers to verify the credentials of foreign employment agents.
U Soe Win, from Let Pan Hla village, is also a chairperson of a CWG. With his support, Ko Min Min* recovered money from an unscrupulous employment broker who was not providing the services for which he was paid. The broker had collected a significant amount of money from at least 6 villagers. When Ko Min discovered the scam, he sought the assistance of KMSS to obtain a partial refund and to make others aware that no money should be paid in advance to brokers.
The majority of men, ages 24-50, from both villages typically migrate to Thailand or Malaysia for employment. KMSS was the first organization to provide awareness raising to combat human trafficking. With grant funding from Tetra Tech’s Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), KMSS is working to prevent TIP by increasing awareness of the pitfalls and providing safe migration information. They establish CWGs in villages in the Magwe Region, Sagaing Region and in Eastern Shan. The CWG, comprised of 7 men and women community members, empowers local communities in the fight against trafficking in persons. To date, KMSS has completed 16 community awareness raising trainings, held 35 CWG awareness sessions, held an anti-TIP day celebration, conducted community leader mainstreaming training, and conducted a coordination meeting with local CSOs.
PRLP is implementing 5 TIP grants with local organizations to increase awareness and prevention, provide assistance to survivors, and offer free legal aid and advice.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
The Htoi Gender and Development Foundation provides protection for victims/survivors of human trafficking with regular peer group meetings, psycho-social support, and legal representation at court in Kachin State and Chin communities
Khin*, a young woman from a village in Kachin State, was enticed from her home and family to move to China on a promise of gainful employment. Khin was a high school dropout looking for work when a relative offered Khin, and her parents, gifts and a promise of $400 per month to work in China. Khin was told she must pay $650 for travel expenses, which her parents raised by mortgaging their home. After she arrived in China, the relative paid a salary advance to her parents. However, Khin called her mother and reported that she had been “sold” as a wife. Khin said to her mother, “Now I am like a bird in the cage. I cannot fly wherever I want to.”
Khin’s parents learned about the Htoi Gender and Development Foundation (HTOI) from a community leader, where they sought assistance from the foundations lawyers and staff to repatriate their daughter. HTOI worked with both the Myanmar and Chinese Anti-Trafficking Police, as well as the My Shayi Women’s Organization in Kachin state. HTOI, armed with advice from My Shayi, contacted law enforcement agencies and was eventually able to secure the safe return of Khin to her family and helped bring charges against the relative who initiated the trafficking scheme. She was arrested, convicted, and sentenced by the Myintkyina District Court to 10 years imprisonment, bringing justice for the trauma inflicted on Khin. Khin is now living with her family and is gainfully employed by a local business.
Tetra Tech’s Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) awarded a grant to HTOI to combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP). HTOI provides protection for victims/survivors of human trafficking with regular peer group meetings, psycho-social support, and legal representation at court. Working in Kachin State and Northern Shan, HTOI is a local community-based organization established by social workers and faith-based organizations to focus on gender equality. In addition to directly supporting trafficking victims, HTOI works to prevent human rights violations with programs focused on women’s empowerment, peace and security, gender advocacy, and support for internally displaced women from camps in Shatapru village.
PRLP is currently implementing 5 TIP grants to increase awareness and prevention, assist survivors, and provide free legal aid and advice through community-based organizations, using a grass-roots approach. Much of the work is focused in border and transit areas where TIP frequently occurs, which provides more potential to affect change.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
JSSP Advisors conduct CMS training via Skype for CMS Operators in Uruzgan Appellate Court
Recognizing the difficulties in accessing the Case Management System (CMS) in remote and unsecure justice Ministry offices, the JSSP CMS advisors in Kandahar and Helmand conducted CMS training via Skype for four newly-hired CMS operators at the Uruzgan Appellate court. The CMS operators are government employees, and they are JSSP’s targeted recipients of CMS mentoring efforts. Using remote technology to mentor and train government counterparts has become increasingly necessary given reduced accessibility to the most remote CMS locations in the country. This is especially important for insecure areas including parts of Uruzgan Province, where in past years, JSSP CMS advisors have been forced to temporarily evacuate.
The Supreme Court recently reassigned new CMS government operators to the Uruzgan Appellate Court to record cases in a timely manner. The court receives and registers approximately 25 cases per month. JSSP trained the new CMS operators on February 12th on a review of the CMS database, data entry protocols, and instructions on how to complete CMS forms. The training also highlighted the importance of accuracy and timeliness. Even though JSSP CMS advisors are currently not located in Uruzgan due to security threats, they were able to work around these obstacles and utilized Skype to mentor and train government counterparts on the CMS database.
As a result, four newly hired CMS government operators are now equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills to properly input court and case information into the CMS database with limited supervision from JSSP advisors. One trainee stressed that “the new knowledge [obtained in the training] on CMS will solve most of our case-related problems and we can easily have access to cases information”. Uruzgan Province serves a population of about 328,000.