The United States has decided to place Myanmar on its global list of worst offenders in human trafficking, officials said. This is a move aimed at prodding the country’s new democratically elected government and its still-powerful military to do more to curb the use of child soldiers and forced labour.
The reprimand of Myanmar comes despite US efforts to court the strategically important country to help counteract China’s rise in the region and build a Southeast Asian bulwark against Beijing’s territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea. Myanmar’s demotion, part of the State Department’s closely watched annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report due to be released on June 30, 2016, also appears to be intended to send a message of US concern about continued widespread persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in the Buddhist-majority nation.
The country’s new leader, democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, has been criticized internationally for neglecting the Rohingya issue since her administration took office this year. Washington has faced a complex balancing act over Myanmar, a former military dictatorship that has emerged from decades of international isolation since launching sweeping political changes in 2011.