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.