FRONTLINE COMMENTARY

OTHER FRONTLINE BLOGS

Chris's picture
Malaysia Detains Human Trafficker
Posted on Jan 09, 2018
|  0 comments

Malaysia is holding in remand a Bangladeshi film director and his assistant for suspected human trafficking. The duo were nabbed on Sunday, along with 17 other people say Malaysian police officers.

As usual, police did not provide details of ongoing investigations for fear that they may compromise evidence and subsequent court trials.

The director was detained when he came to Malaysia to organize an event, suggesting that Malaysian police shadowed him and collaborated with authorities in Dhaka. What made the case doubly explosive was that he had trafficked 57 people into Malaysia for purposes of trying to arrange a cultural event.
 
The Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia is particularly chastened saying, “This kind of incident in a foreign country is very embarrassing”.
 
One member of the Bangladeshi troupe told Malaysian media: "He has taken money from all of them. Each of them have already confessed that to the Malaysian police. A team of Malaysian police have talked with us. We had no idea about this before."
 
Malaysia is leery about allegations and reports on human trafficking, especially when the US State Department complained over the years that Malaysia does not meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
 
The report however, noted that officials strengthened enforcement of the law prohibiting passport retention, convicting 17 employers for unauthorized retention of passports, compared to zero during the previous year.
 
Malaysia nonetheless has established a new interagency law enforcement taskforce, to which officers from seven agencies were assigned and trained on investigative tactics. And it has also approved an updated national action plan spanning 2016-2020 and allocated sufficient resources towards its implementation.
 
Even victim protection efforts remained largely inadequate, newly implemented laws created a process for shelter residents to move freely and to work if they are cleared by medical, security, and mental health professionals and approved by the anti-trafficking council, the report added,
 
But, bureaucratic delays, including a lack of counsellors able to complete required mental health evaluations, risk-averse and paternalistic attitudes towards victims, and a lack of interest in available work opportunities resulted in a very low number of victims being granted the right to work and/or to move freely. Of the 1,558 victims identified, the government conducted, only 106 risk assessments were completed and ultimately six victims were granted work visas and 12 received special immigration passes. Complicity among law enforcement officials, in the form of accepting bribes to allow undocumented border crossings, hampered some anti-trafficking efforts. While authorities investigated these crimes, culpable officials typically avoided punishment.
 
Thanks to its efforts on this problem, Malaysia is no longer a trafficker’s dream spot. The US State Department praised the nation’s efforts, saying the country is to a ‘much lesser extent" the source and transit country "for men and women and children subjected to forced labour, and women and children subjected to sex trafficking’.

Tenaganita programme director Aegile Fernandez, a non-profit and human right organization, said through its  credited Malaysia's ‘promotion’ to the government’s efforts to improve the situation in more prosecutions and convictions.

‘It is war’, says Vietnam

Sensing a real, present and future danger it is state, Vietnam has announced the creation of a cyber warfare unit to combat perceived hacking. Hanoi did not name names but recent events have discernibly made the nation uneasy. Jaya Prakash files this story.

It what could signal a seismic change in tactics and attitudes the communist regime of Vietnam has announced the creation of a 10,000- strong military cyber warfare unit.

As is always customary with the cagey and secretive regime, Hanoi did not flesh out details as to who would be in the unit, what kind of training these cyber warriors will get and where the bulk of military operations will be. The only reason to why Vietnam wants such a force is to combat ‘wrong’ views on the Internet the media reported.

The cyber unit named as Force 47 is already in operation in several sectors of the country, the Tuoi Tre newspaper said quoting Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy head of the military political department.

“In every hour, minute, and second we must be ready to fight proactively against the wrong views,” the paper quoted the general as saying.

As usual there was no definition of what constituted ‘wrong’ views or how wrong views will be dealt with, or if wrong views meant disagreeing with the regime on issues.

But interestingly, even as the country steps up efforts to tame -whatever that means - the Internet, calling for closer watch over social networks and for the removal of content deemed offensive, there however, is little sign whatsoever of it silencing criticism, which for nothing more than of the prospect of these companies going global.

Though there was no mention of how it plans to monitor or jam servers, an Internet security bill asking for the local placement of Facebook and Google met with vehement opposition when the Bill came up for mention in the nation’s legislative chamber.

Vietnam is one of the top 10 countries for Facebook usage. Its young population out of 85million people lionise most of the usage over the NET.

Vietnam’s move mirrors that of its northern neighbour China, at whom it has always looked askance at considering the acrimonious relations both nations have had, had in their joint histories. Last month at an Internet World conference Beijing stunned mostly Western delegates when it argued for government control of the Internet thus eerily striking a somewhat semantic affinity with Vietnam over the need for such interferences in the social and political domains in the country.

Though the number of staff compares with the 6,000 reportedly employed by North Korea, the general’s comments however, indicate that its force may be focused largely on domestic internet users.  

In August, Vietnam’s president said the country needed to pay greater attention to controlling “news sites and blogs with bad and dangerous content”.

Though he may not have said it like it is, cyber espionage is a domain that is very attractive to nation states because of its opacity and the modest investments it entails.

US-based Freedom House has been specially scathing of Hanoi, saying rather interestingly and in apparent dig at the cowering communist rulers, that prosecutions of ICT users actually fell during the Trans-Pacific Partnerships negotiation but that three bloggers were sentenced the month after the agreement was signed. And that Facebook and Instagram were sporadically blocked in May 2016 and that a cybersecurity law passed in November 2015 could undermine privacy and encryption.
 
According to Freedom House political content on a range of sensitive topics is restricted online, especially in Vietnamese. Blogging and social media platforms are widely available, though Facebook was apparently briefly blocked in May 2016 in response to protests. Additionally, Circular 09, issued in October 2014, requires website owners to immediately take down content at the request of authorities resulting in increased self-censorship.

In 2013, the government officially acknowledged using paid commentators, who have since grown in numbers and continue to manipulate online content.

– Jaya  Prakash

Comments