News

Lawmakers press Obama administration on human trafficking

Lawmakers press Obama administration on human trafficking

HUMAN TRAFFICKING:Rohingya people from Myanmar, who were rescued from human traffickers, react from inside a communal cell at Songkhla Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) where they are kept near Thailand's border with Malaysia Feb. 12. Photo: Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers called on the Obama administration on Tuesday to punish countries that do too little to fight human trafficking, including Thailand and Malaysia, and said Myanmar should not receive a waiver to avoid possible sanctions over its record.

Citing reports on the exploitation of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority in their home country as well as Thailand and Malaysia, Republican U.S. Representative Chris Smith said authorities have done too little to protect them.

“Rohingya are leaving Burma by the thousands to escape religious persecution,” Smith said at a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on Tier Rankings and the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, citing a Reuters investigation into the treatment of Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar sees Rohingya as illegal immigrants and denies them citizenship.

“According to reports put out by Reuters, Thai authorities are selling Rohingya to human traffickers, where they are held in ‘tropical gulags’ until relatives pay ransom,” Smith said, adding that those who do not pay are sold into sex slavery or hard labor, and many die from abuse or disease.

In the report, “Tier 1″ countries are those who meet anti-trafficking standards. “Tier 2″ do not but are making a significant effort to do so. “Tier 3″ countries do not meet the standards and not making significant effort to do so.

Tier 3 countries are open to sanction by the U.S. government. A U.S. law also includes a watch list, in which countries on Tier 2 for two years are downgraded to Tier 3 unless they receive presidential waivers, available for two additional years.

China, Russia and Uzbekistan ran out of waivers and moved to Tier 3 in the 2013 report released last June. Several others, including Malaysia and Thailand, run out this year.

Smith said Myanmar is still eligible for a waiver.

“But the facts on the ground don’t justify that course of action,” he added.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle. Editing by Andre Grenon)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

LLWS: Las Vegas spoils Mo’ne’s night, beats Philly 8-1

WP-PennsylvaniaMoneDavis

The win puts Las Vegas in Saturday's U.S. title game and sends Philadelphia into an elimination game on Thursday night against Chicago's Jackie Robinson team.

in Local Sports

WWU to conduct intrasquad scrimmage at Chelan on Saturday

WWU Volleyball

Viking volleyball squad looks to help area residents recover from devastating forest fire.

in Sports

Hoyer gets starting job over Manziel

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) throws as Brian Hoyer, right, watches before a preseason NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014.

Browns coach Mike Pettine has picked Brian Hoyer as starting quarterback over rookie Johnny Manziel.

in Sports

Jim Kelly’s follow-up exam shows no sign of cancer

FILE - In this April 4, 2014 file photo, former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly gestures during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards, in New York. Kelly established a charitable foundation in honor of a son who died of a rare neurological disorder. Now it's the Hall of Fame quarterback who needs assistance during what's been a yearlong battle with jaw and sinus cancer.

Jim Kelly shows no evidence of sinus cancer three months after the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback completed radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

in Local Sports

Seahawks’ Schofield out to prove himself

Seattle Seahawks' O'Brien Schofield walks on the field agaist the St. Louis Rams in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks defensive end O'Brien Schofield is more determined than ever to prove himself after what he calls a "crazy" offseason.