YANGON, Myanmar — Gold-plated pagodas with monks in reddish brown robes glisten under the August sun as hawkers selling foreign investment guides now fill streets once closed by military roadblocks, a metaphor for the end of a dark era in this Southeast Asian country.
Yet a closer look at Myanmar, formerly called Burma and ruled for half a century by a military junta until 2011, reveals that behind the smiles of young women with painted cheeks and the overall euphoria now lining its road to democracy, cracks remain; and the scars are deep and fresh.
Human trafficking of young women to China and nearby countries is one such problem that is still hounding the country.
The United States State Department June 2013 report on human trafficking showed that in 2012 alone, Myanmar’s Department of Social Welfare received 195 repatriated victims, 131 from China and 64 from Thailand. The unofficial count could be higher, with UNICEF placing the estimated number of Burmese girls trafficked to Thailand brothels at 10,000 every year.