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Malaysia’s palm oil industry cited for using child labour

Malaysia’s palm oil industry cited for using child labour

A Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) farmer collects oil palm fruits in Hulu Selangor, about 100 km (62 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Reuters


KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s palm oil industry has been cited by the United States Department of Labour for using child labour and for forced labour in the country’s electronics and garment sectors.

Malaysia appeared in the latest list of goods produced by child labour or forced labour released by its Bureau of International Labour Affairs (ILAB), which was released yesterday (Dec 1) as part of bi-annual reporting to the US Congress.

In a press statement on the department of labour’s website, it said palm oil was a new addition to the list of goods made with child labour, and cited Malaysia for it.

Malaysia’s electronics sector was also a new addition to the list under the category of forced labour, in addition to the garment sector.

The list, in its sixth edition, is required by US law under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act (TVPRA) 2005 to monitor and provide information on human trafficking for forced labour.

This news follows Malaysia’s downgrade to Tier 3 in the US’ annual Trafficking of Persons Report in June this year for insufficient action to combat human trafficking, whereby victims are said to include foreign migrants seeking work in Malaysia.

In a report about the list on the department’s website, the ILAB said it focused on information about children under the age of 18. It also defined “child labour” as work done by a person below 15 that is similar to slavery, for illicit purposes, and which harms “the health, safety and morals of children”.

It defined “forced labour” as work that is done under coercion, force and fraud and includes the use of threats or actual physical harm, schemes and abuse of the law or legal progress.

The list was made using data from “publicly available primary and secondary sources”, and these included data from the International Labour Organisation, site visits by ILAB and American government staff, as well as information compiled by academic institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Other goods made with child labour that were added this time around were garments from Bangladesh, cotton and sugarcane from India, vanilla from Madagascar, fish from Kenya and Yemen, and alcoholic beverages, meat, textiles and timber from Cambodia.

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