I Live in a Tier 3 Country – Am I Really OK with That?

I nearly ranted online against the rampant human rights violations in Thailand. It was in reaction to people posting comments in a Mr. Money Mustache forum thread about wanting to retire there. I wanted to scream, “But Thai corruption is pervasive, and often police, after ostensibly ‘saving’ refugees, sell these vulnerable people into slavery.” Anecdotes for you:

Reuters Article
Economist article

I cited, as further evidence of Thailand’s reprehensible state of existence, the fact that the US State Department classified them as ‘Tier 3’ in the 2014 Human Trafficking Report.

Then, before posting, I looked up Malaysia, our home right now, in the State Department report. My jaw dropped. ‘Tier 3’.

That report pulled the rug out. I can’t believe human trafficking is as bad here as it is in Thailand. So I read more of the report.

‘Tier 3’ means the government is making little to no effort to comply to international standards for combating human trafficking.

The actual trafficking is different in each country. In Thailand – it’s what those articles point out. Corruption is endemic at all levels of government, and government agents often take active roles in the trafficking. In Malaysia, the government simply looks the other way. It has also created laws that work against the vulnerable. For example, in 2013 Malaysia passed a law putting the onus on immigrant workers to pay for and deal with all immigration costs/issues – not the recruiting agencies who bring them in and subsequently turn them into indentured servants. So in Thailand, officials actually engage in misconduct. In Malaysia, the government is more passive – turning a blind eye to shady practices and with that law, somewhat enabling private agencies to violate the rights of immigrants. Neither country is making much effort to rectify human trafficking abuses or fix structural problems that disenfranchise immigrants.

I’m having a mini-crisis here. How can I live in a Tier 3 country? Cognitive Dissonance? Looking into the details I still think Thailand is much much worse. But, it’s not non-existent here. I’ve met two Filipino maids, one here and one in Singapore (admittedly Sing is not in Malaysia), who are essentially indentured servants. Both women have small children back home who they only see ONCE A YEAR FOR A WEEK! And the other 51 weeks of the year they’re raising other peoples’ kids. And they’re making NOTHING.

I’ve written a few drafts on my FB status but haven’t hit ‘post’. The latest draft:

“To my expat friends in Malaysia – if you are looking to hire help for around the house, please hire locals and pay them market rates. There are scant protections for foreign workers recruited by agencies.

Don’t be a part of the reason that Malaysia, in 2014, fell to ‘Tier 3’ status on the US State Dept. Human Trafficking Report. :(. We can do better. (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226847.pdf)”

But IDK. I’m a guest here. Not an activist. But how can I just be okay with ‘Tier 3’?