Imphal: In a late-night development on Tuesday, the Yangon anti-trafficking task force of Myanmar rescued a girl of Nepalese origin, who is believed to be one of the 301 Nepalese nationals said to have been trafficked through the Manipur-Myanmar border, as reported earlier.
The Nepalese national is said to have made a distress call to her family in Nepal from Myanmar seeking help. The family, in turn, sought the help of two Nepal-based NGOs, including Maiti Nepal, who then sent an alert to Myanmar.
The Yangon anti-trafficking task force upon receiving alerts from Maiti Nepal and Impulse NGO Network, an India-based NGO, which has been working in tandem with the authorities in both Nepal and Myanmar through their case information centres in the respective countries, rescued the alleged victim from Hninnsi Budget Inn on Taung Pagoda Road in Yangon.
The rescue operation was carried out by the Myanmarese anti-trafficking unit in collaboration with immigration officer of Pazundaung, a township located in the south-eastern part of Yangon.
Meanwhile, sources have confirmed that the rescued woman is now being kept under protective custody in Myanmar.
However, it is yet to be ascertained if the girl rescued belongs to the same lot of Nepalese nationals who were believed to have crossed over to Myanmar in the past few months.
However, another girl, also believed to be part of the same contingent, is said to have been trafficked to the Arab country of Kuwait, to work as a labour. This information, however, still awaits official confirmation.
In the meantime, the number of alleged victims of human trafficking rescued by the Manipur police has now increased to 183, including 32 men and 151 women, comprising of minors as well, as informed by the state police on Feb 3. Even as the efforts to retrieve alleged victims of trafficking are still on in the Northeastern state of Manipur, where many of the Nepalese nationals are believed to be holed up, the police have already arrested eight people so far.
On January 30, six girls, all Nepalese nationals, were rescued by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), who revealed that another group of 11-14 women had already left Delhi on the same day for Manipur. This was followed by the interception of 18 Nepalese nationals including girls and boys, including two traffickers, from the Integrated Check Post (ICP) at the Moreh-Tamu border in Tengnoupal district, bordering Myanmar, on the same night by the custom officials.
As per the statement released by the social welfare department on February 5, the two traffickers detained by the customs had, “already sent around 180 persons from Nepal to Myanmar in about a months and (who) never returned.”
The arrest was followed by a series of raids in various hotels in and around Imphal, particularly Imphal West of Manipur, wherein the police with the help of various NGOs and other stakeholders rescued and arrested several alleged traffickers and victims of trafficking.
Rajiv Sharma, a native of Sunauli town in Nepal, is believed to have played a major role in trafficking the Nepalese nationals, who is still at large. One of the eight arrested included a 42-year-old man, Asha Kali Tamang, a resident of Sindhupalchok in Nepal.
All the rescued women, suspected to be victims of trafficking, have been handed over to the state social welfare department, and have been accommodated at eight government-registered shelter homes under the UJJAWALA scheme, until their repatriation to Nepal.
However, as pointed out by the statement of the social welfare department, it “does not have any institutional/non-institutional mechanism to provide support services for suspected male victims of trafficking.” But, after making special arrangements, the men have been accommodated at a separate shelter.
Manipur’s Moreh, bordering Myanmar’s Tamu town, has for long been used as a major transit point for trafficking men and women to southeast Asian countries, and employed as labours, domestic helps, sex workers, masseuse and exploited in other ways.
While traffickers have been using Nepal as a major transit point to traffic both men and women to the Gulf countries, trafficking through Myanmar to the Arab nations adds a new dimension to the trafficking scenario.
The victims of trafficking are often from poor, less literate, unemployed and rural areas and the most affluent countries are generally destinations for victims trafficked from South Asian countries, which is said to be the second-largest region for human trafficking in the world after East Asia, as pointed out by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In a case as recent as 2017, a prime accused, Esther Lalpianmawii, a 32-year-old resident of Manipur, had confessed to have trafficked over 100 girls through Myanmar between 2015 and 2017, as reported by the media.