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The Colors of Exploitation:

Smuggling of Rohingyas from Myanmar to Malaysia

Unlike anti-trafficking initiatives, the aspect of exploitation has been given less attention in the
current anti-smuggling regime. This understanding is rooted on the caveat that the covenant to be
smuggled is predominantly agreed on the basis of mutual benefit between smuggler and
migrant. Additionally, the migrant who has agreed to be smuggled has given his/her consent. In
Malaysia, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons & Smuggling of Migrants (ATIPSOM) does recognize
aspect of exploitation but as an aggravated offence of smuggling with proviso that such
exploitation must take place after entry into Malaysia or at transit country. Additionally, the
ATIPSOM narrowly defines exploitation as an act of physical exploitation that ranges from sexual
exploitation, forced labor, slavery, servitude or removal of organ. This reveals greater loopholes in
the broader understanding of exploitation that would lead to the impediment of developing and
implementing a more progressive anti-smuggling regime that covers a wide variety of potential
victims including forced migrants. This study borrows Alan Wertheimers Antidote case in
explaining the many forms of exploitation, expressed herewith to be the colors of exploitation
that exist throughout the smuggling process of Rohingyas to Malaysia. Though some smuggling
activities are considered to be ethically operated and inspired by the spirit of solidarity and
brotherhood, the failure of smugglers to uphold their prima facie moral obligation not to extract
benefit from Rohingyas who cannot reasonably refuse their offers due to their desperation and
vulnerability still account to exploitative exploitation. Additionally, the use of deception,
coercion, forced labor and forced marriage toward victims are clear manifestation of
exploitative exploitation that exist in the smuggling of Rohingyas to Malaysia. Key findings of
this study derived partly from a yearlong field work in 2013, engaging Rohingya refugees,
community leaders and activists residing across Klang Valley, Peninsular Malaysia. This study
expects to contribute in the existing studies on forced migration and transnational organized crime
with particular emphasis on the smuggling of Rohingyas to Malaysia and in the Southeast Asian
Exploitation, Rohingya, refugees, smuggling of migrants, human trafficking,
migration and forced migration.


Post-Graduate Candidate
Institute of Malaysian & International Studies (IKMAS)
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)