Myanmar’s Religious Leaders Meet to Combat Human Trafficking, Smuggling

Capacity Building, Human Smuggling

Myanmar - Myanmar Buddhist and Christian religious and community leaders met in Yangon last week at a workshop organized by IOM to discuss community-based solutions to human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

Every year some 250-350 Myanmar nationals are identified as victims of trafficking in neighbouring countries. Most are trafficked for purposes of forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced marriage or organized begging.

The workshop attracted 42 participants including Buddhist monks, Christian nuns and priests, the Myanmar Police Anti-Trafficking Task Force (ATTF) and representatives from other faith-based community organizations, including Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS) and Good Shepherd.

“There are currently no anti-smuggling laws in Myanmar, but for trafficking cases we can use the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law and human rights law, as traffickers often abuse human rights.  I encourage everyone here to apply the lessons learnt in the workshop in your respective communities,” ATTF Police Major Khin Maung Kywe told delegates.

The workshop,  which was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), highlighted the need for a  coordinated approach to combating smuggling and trafficking, and focused on the role of religious leaders in addressing the challenge in the community. Participants learnt about migration, the risks of trafficking and working collaboratively towards community-based solutions.

“Religious leaders are particularly influential in Myanmar and are highly respected and trusted members of their communities. Many people turn to them in times of hardship and crisis such as after natural disasters – when people are at their most vulnerable,” said IOM Myanmar protection specialist Yoko Kimura.

“Previously, there were many challenges for Buddhist religious leaders being involved in social work in Myanmar. We could not participate in this type of social work due to our discipline, which primarily focuses on purely religious matters. But now we can participate without breaking Buddhist principles. When we give sermons, we can also include information about trafficking,” said a senior monk taking part in the workshop.

Other interventions discussed at the workshop included the inclusion of counter-trafficking messages in religious sermons and links with Buddhist and Christian teachings.

Strengthening collaboration among churches and incorporating youth education programmes at Dhamma schools and churches on the risks of trafficking and safe migration were also discussed.

For further information please contact Sharon Dimanche at IOM Myanmar. Tel. +951523509, Email:



  • Buddhist Monks participating in Yangon Anti-Trafficking Workshop. Photo: IOM / Liam Best 2017