NGO: Sabah among 3 human trafficking hotspots
Published on: Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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Kota Kinabalu: Sabah has earned the dubious distinction of being a
hotbed for human trafficking in the country, the victims being women
and children forced into prostitution.
The situation, according to the NGO Tenaganita, has become quite
serious in Sabah because the problem is being monitored more closely
in the peninsula.
Because of that the culprits are moving their modus operandi to Sabah
and Sarawak, claimed its Director Dr Irene Fernandez.
She said of the 119 cases of human trafficking in the country, thus
far 80 per cent of the victims were rescued in Sabah.
A worrying trend is that among those rescued were children below 16
some as young as 14 and 13, she said.
"This means that children are being brought in for forced
prostitution," she said at the opening of a two-day workshop on "Role
of the Media in Countering Trafficking in Persons" at Likas Square,
She identified Labuan, Sandakan and Limbang as the latest "hotspots"
for human trafficking and prostitution in the country based on the
victims they rescued who had been forced into prostitution.
She said most of the women and girls rescued were from neighbouring
countries like the Philippines and Indonesia as well as from Vietnam
According to her, prostitution is bound to increase whenever there are
huge development projects such as the Bakun dam in Sarawak.
In this respect, it is very important to train municipal councils and
town councils since they are the authorities with power to approve and
revoke trading licences of entertainment outlets.
But at the same time, Fernandez said many Sabahan girls had also
fallen victims to trafficking after they were duped by employment
agencies who then forced them into prostitution once they reached
"Our partner in Singapore said there's been an increasing number of
Sabahans forced into prostitution," she said.
However, she said they are facing challenges in this aspect in the
Lion City because Singapore has legalised prostitution.
Fernandez said Singapore does not believe that anyone could be forced
into prostitution but that Tenaganita is challenging it since there
are syndicates operating and forcing foreign women into prostitution.
She said there is still much more to do in countering human
"Although the police now have a special (human trafficking) unit
established in Bukit Aman, we would also need a unit in Sabah," she
This is so that the police here would be trained and be knowledgeable
in the law effectively and to enforce it in Sabah.
The migration of humans is now so fluid that there must be effort to
address it especially in terms of human trafficking, she said.
President of Sabah Journalist Association (SJA), Datuk Joniston
Bangkuai, said the media must play its role toward combating human
trafficking in the country.
He said that everyone including the Government, private sector and the
public must cooperate with the media to overcome the problem.