KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – The new Malaysian government on Saturday considered amending the law on trafficking and smuggling after the State Department failed to make any progress on the country's anti-trafficking efforts last year.
The Ministry of the Interior stated that the proposals discussed focused on the protection of victims by providing them with more freedom of movement and work and by introducing tougher sanctions for traffickers.
On Thursday, the State Department issued its annual "Trafficking In Persons" report, in which Malaysia was downgraded to the "Tier 2 Watch List," a category that identifies particularly scrutinizing nations and indicates that the Southeast Asian country failed to demonstrate greater efforts than last year.
The report said that the government's victim protection efforts were largely inadequate, and law enforcement complicity had hindered some efforts to combat human trafficking.
"The Malaysian Government … takes note of the report on trafficking in human beings and fully supports the elimination of human trafficking crimes," the Home Office said in a statement.
A new government led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was formed last month after Malaysians voted for a change after almost ten years of being led by Najib Razak's scandal-ridden authorities.
Malaysia has long been known as a target for victims of human trafficking, including documented and undocumented workers.
It relies heavily on cheap foreign workers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines. It has nearly 2 million registered migrant workers, but there are millions more in the country without a work permit.
(coverage by Emily Chow, adaptation by Simon Cameron-Moore)