Myanmar Quick Facts:

Capital: Naypyidaw
Population: 52.8 million (2012)
Unofficial: 55.7 million (2014 estimate)
Estimated rural population: 66.8%
GDP per capita: US$ 111.1 (2013 est.)
Human Development Index (HDI): 0.498 (2012)
HDI Rank: 149 (2012)
Neighbouring Countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Lao PDR and Thailand

Contact Details:

Ms. Aye Aye Mar Kyaw
National Project Coordinator
Direct line: + 95 1 230 5977 78

UN-ACT Myanmar
No. 5 Kanbawza Street
Golden Valley (2) Quarter, Bahan Township,
Yangon, Myanmar

National Trafficking Trends
  • Primarily a source and transit country for human trafficking to neighbouring countries
  • Trafficking to China is primarily of girls and young women for marriage
  • Trafficking to Thailand and Malaysia often starts as labour migration, with migrants ending up at the destination in situations of forced labour in factories, plantations, fishing boats, domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation and begging
  • Recent ethnic conflicts have contributed to the number of impoverished and desperate persons vulnerable to exploitation
  • Some research suggests that as many as one-third of Myanmar’s population have migrated between urban and rural areas within their lifetime
  • Myanmar children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation through street hawking and begging
  • Trends of internal trafficking are coming to light
The Trafficking Situation

Myanmar is predominantly a source country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Poor socio-economic development in Myanmar has led large numbers of nationals to migrate in search of improved livelihood opportunities. It is estimated that up to 4 million Myanmar migrants are working in Thailand, in a range of sectors, often undocumented. Irregular migration routinely places migrants at increased risk of exploitation, with victims being trafficked throughout East Asia, but also further abroad to the Middle East and North America.

Trafficking victims from Myanmar may be men, women and/or children of various ages, though primarily from poor socio-economic backgrounds with unreliable employment prospects. Young women and girls who are either unemployed or have low incomes are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked as they are targeted and deceived by brokers into believing that better job opportunities and wages exist for them abroad. The majority of identified human trafficking cases involve the trafficking of women to China from various regions of the country, primarily for marriage. Victims come from across the country, however increased vulnerability is associated with populations from conflict areas.

Young girls are often trafficked for sexual exploitation by working initially in the entertainment industry such as in karaoke lounges or massage parlours. Internal trafficking of women and girls occurs primarily from villages in the central dry zone areas and Delta (Ayeyarwaddy Division) to urban centers with other transportation and economic hubs such as truck stops, fishing villages, border towns and mining areas. Conversely, men are often subjected to situations of forced labor in the fishing and construction industries.

While limited data exists, there are indications that it is generally small, or family-based groups who engage in brokering and trafficking, with linkages in destination sites with both Myanmar and non-Myanmar criminals. Perpetrators often operate as private entities by exploiting vulnerable persons in tea shops, home industries, agricultural plantations, within the fishing industry and for forced begging. Significant levels of corruption also contributes to the trafficking situation in Myanmar, creating further difficulties for anti-trafficking actors in the region. Fraudulent recruitment agencies and criminal gangs are active perpetrators in the trafficking of Myanmar nationals, and many victims are sold into exploitative situations by their own community members and relatives.

Anti-trafficking mechanisms at a glance
  • Anti-trafficking Unit (ATU) established in 2004 with Anti-Trafficking Task Forces (ATTFs)
  • Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) Task Force (2005), with UN-ACT as secretariat
  • Five Year National Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking was brought into effect in 2007
  • Central Body for Suppression of Trafficking in Persons (CBTIP) (Ministry of Home Affairs)
  • Border Cooperation on Anti-Trafficking in Persons (BCATIP) mechanisms with Thailand and Border Liaison Offices (BLOs) with China were also established to support coordination in cross-border cases
  • Action Plan on Forced Labour agreed upon between Myanmar government and International Labor Organisation (ILO)
  • Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division created in 2013 (ATIP under CBTIP)
TIP challenges ahead

Despite the progress made in recent years, significant challenges remain throughout Myanmar in combatting the trafficking industry. The low socio-economic development continues to drive high levels of migration, much of which occurs through informal and consequently high-risk channels. Conflicts in some parts of the country have increased the vulnerability of certain groups to trafficking as well as limiting the potential for successful reintegration efforts for returning victims. Limited government infrastructure also creates challenges in monitoring and managing these trends.

Communication and research on patterns and causes of trafficking in Myanmar also needs to be improved for more effective programming in at-risk communities. Authorities also require further training regarding what constitutes trafficking and how to cooperate to investigate and combat these crimes. The influence of corruption in trafficking cases is a great cause for concern, and an issue that significantly hinders progressive initiatives in the country. Political reforms and the democratization process in Myanmar have re-engaged development partners and UN agencies, however substantial improvements are still required to raise the standard of anti-trafficking work in the country.

For national, bi- and multilateral laws and agreements on human trafficking involving Myanmar, please see the resource section