Malaysia labour concerns (update 12b): Malaysia planning for new naturalised labour force from Bangladesh? 1.5 million new migrants - men and women - over 3 years.

Editor's note: Malaysia is chock full of migrant workers - from living in KL, you can see that they seem to play a crucial role in retail, F&B, and domestic services; in addition to their role in key industries such as construction, plantations and E&E. The commoditization of labour is a major feature of the world economy nowadays as global supply-chains help drive the push for lowest cost. This is likely an important topic to keep an eye on as Malaysia contests the allegations.

Outside of the palm oil sector is the human trafficking tragedy of May 2015 (which may inform Malaysia's earlier drop to Tier 3 (along with Thailand and two others), the lowest ranking in US human trafficking report; our contacts who have attended UN briefings on the recent refugee crisis confirm that the key actors have been known for some time but only recently has some action been triggered via Thailand). Given the apparent widespread knowledge of the human trafficking (even among local residents, see 26 May 2016 post), the question is whether the powers-that-be will answer for this. The news report of women raped by guards of the camps is another shocker that is top read news in Malaysia online news.

KL-ites talking about the Vietnam boat people crisis - one contact shared how locals near the Vietnam refugee camps would earn gold pieces for supply of basic things like medicines; his landlord (where he rented a room) of one contact had a small case full of such gold pieces. Also it was well known that youths would join some community organisations that somehow gave them access to some womenfolk in the camp.

The question is this: who are employing all these Rohingya people to generate this illegal trafficking?

Really sad to hear of exploitation of people who are in such a sad situation - then and now.

11 Feb 2016: Malaysia planning for new naturalised labour force from Bangladesh? 1.5 million new migrants - men and women - over 3 years. 

Editor's note: 

Malaysia industry has been agitating for the new foreign worker's levy to be cut and a decision on the revised levy has been delayed. In the meantime, there is report of that the policy (announced earlier) to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers will soon be implemented. Now, the details reveal that both male and female migrants will arrive over the three year period. It is clear that labour rights point toward giving reproductive rights to (female) migrants. News articles suggest that this is a major change in Malaysia government policy to create a large new naturalised labour force - else why bring women migrants? This will inevitably also have medium to long-term political repercussions. Waves of worker migrants have a tendency to bolster the status quo. If a large number are naturalised, it might be imaginable that they could form a new interest group (urban and rural) verging on the size of the "greater Felda" group. Malaysia has seen many waves of migrants including from China, India, Indonesia, Suluk and now also Bangladesh. 

The Bangladeshis may also work in the service, manufacturing and construction sectors - current policy confined them to the plantation sector. The maximum expatriation cost for each worker would be RM1,985 - to be borne by the employers, who would also pay for workers' security deposits, levies, visa fees, health and compensation insurance, "(without) interference from middlemen." News reports state 600,000 Bangladeshis working in Malaysia. Sounds like 2016-2020 potential arrival of 1. 5 million – men and women, to make it about 2.1 million population. But presumably dependent on economic conditions. With questions also arising on implications for Malaysia's "middle-income trap" and its "premature de-industrialisation" - issues pointed out by some economists.

Comments and questions from readers: 

  • Does industry really need all these people? 
  • With the equalisation of Peninsular Malaysia and Jakarta minimum wage; are Indonesians no longer coming and/or returning (but Indonesia has underemployment problem too)? 
  • Why can't industry pay more for stable local labour? 
  • Cheap labour cost may be later offset by other cost rises e.g. future GST increase, higher tax on fuels and so forth? 
  • Reminds me of the movie "Banglasia." 
  • Image forwarded from social media:

caption: "Bangla workers are more loyal and trustworthy" - Deputy PM Zahid Hamidi

Source: Photo of The Star sent by a reader

MoU on 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers to be signed within a month, say reports 9 February 2016

Bangladesh agrees to send 1.5m workers to Msia BY ISKANDAR TAJUDDIN - 9 FEBRUARY 2016

Earlier news

Zahid: Firm yet to secure 1.5m Bangladeshi worker deal BY MELISSA CHI October 21, 2015;...The project previously sparked controversy after reports claimed that the contract was to be awarded to Ahmad Zahid’s brother, businessman Datuk Abdul Hakim. The Home Ministry denied a report claiming that Ahmad Zahid had ordered it to award a management system contract for Bangladeshi workers to his brother’s company, saying the matter is still being discussed....

1.5 million Bangladeshi workers to arrive in 3 years, says home minister 25 June 2015

1 Feb 2016: Malaysia ups foreign worker's levy to rake in extra RM2.5 billion; RSPO sustainable palm oil body sanctions 3 auditors, on issues including those related to migrant worker standards 

Editor's note: 

  • A lot of concern about labour cost in Malaysia on minimum wage and also migrant labour fees. However, note from 14 Jan 2016: Just read in a prominent KL broker report...... Indonesia has announced the new levels of minimum wage for 2016F. Interestingly, the minimum wage in Jakarta of RM978/month is close to the proposed minimum wage of RM1,000/month for Peninsular Malaysia in 2016F. This is mainly due to the appreciation of the Rupiah against the RM...
  • For plantations, the review by analysts is: "In Budget 2016, Malaysia revealed plans to to raise the minimum wage by RM100-120 per month or 11-15% to RM920-RM1,000 per month, effective 1 July 2016. This is negative for pure planters, as it could raise costs of production by 3-5% and lower its earnings by up to 3-5% per annum assuming 50% of estates costs are labour and 50% of its workers earn minimum wage." (26 Oct 2015)
  • Coincidentally, social media highlight of a story from 2014 - Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry speaker comment on various things including archaic labour laws in Malaysia.

Zahid: New foreign workers' levy rate system to bring in RM2.5bil by The Star Online -  31 January 2016; SIBU: The Government's decision to restructure the levy rate system for foreign workers is expected to bring in an extra income of RM2.5bil to the country, said Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi...The Deputy Prime Minister said the new rate, which would come into effect from Monday, applied to two categories... Previously, he said foreign workers were charged different rates based on the sectors where they worked such as manufacturing, construction, service, plantation and agriculture.... "Now there are only two categories. The first is for those in the manufacturing, construction and service sector. Here, each worker will be charged the new rate of RM2,500. "For those in plantation and agriculture, which come under the second category, the rate is RM1,500 per worker," Ahmad Zahid said. He said domestic workers were, however, exempted...  According to statistics, he said there were now some 2.135 million registered foreign workers in the country.... He said the Government needed to come up with the new rates as foreign workers were also enjoying various benefits such as subsidised prices for food and other necessities which were only meant for Malaysians. "They are enjoying our good infrastructures too, but we are also acknowledging the vital roles they play in our nation-building and to our economy," Ahmad Zahid added. - Bernama

Malaysia 19 years behind South Korea, complacency, graft among culprits By LEE SHI-IAN 17 October 2014; Malaysia are 19 years behind South Korea in terms of productivity, the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today, naming graft, leakages, complacency and archaic labour laws as road blocks. Its executive director Stewart Forbes said Malaysia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per worker productivity last year was equivalent to South Korea's - but in 1995.... "Putrajaya also needs to focus on amending labour laws in Malaysia as they are quite archaic and hark back to post-independence days. "A balance needs to be struck in Malaysia's labour laws to bring it in line with the 21st century. Changes need to be made to bring it up to date," he said - See more at:

Editor's note: Migrant labour standards are in the spotlight. Felda was reviewed after the WSJ article allegations - labour risk issues identified were uncertainties of labour contractors and independent smallholder use of migrant labour; read here: ASI - RSPO - Compliance/Investigation - PT. Mutuagung Lestari & CU at FELDA - Malaysia 2015 Then, problems for 3 auditors of RSPO plantations therafter - the attribution clear on Mutuagung and Control Union on the migrant labour issue, but not at all clear on SGS removal. This was a massive crackdown on auditing standards at the RSPO. Read these:

  • ASI suspends two RSPO CABs after compliance investigation Posted on 11 January 2016; As a follow up on the compliance investigations conducted in September 2015, ASI has suspended two RSPO Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) as of 31 December 2015 : Control Union (Malaysia) SDN. BHD. and PT Mutuagung Lestari. These were the first compliance assessments for the RSPO accreditation program, conducted at a selection of RSPO certified and applicant estates, aimed to address key questions concerning health and safety management and labor practices. The assessments included short-notice on-site visits and review of documents and records, as well as interviews with foreign and domestic workers, company personnel, smallholders and subcontractors.
  • RSPO announcement on the accreditation withdrawal of SGS, 19 Jan 2016 
  • EIA - New Report Highlights RSPO Auditing Practices, Builds on Peru-Malaysia Case Study 25 Nov 2015, The Environmental Investigation Agency’s UK office last week provided evidence of systematic problems in actions of auditors charged with certifying oil palm growers under the voluntary Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification scheme. In a new report called, Who Watches the Watchmen? Auditors and the breakdown of oversight in the RSPO, campaigners detail the effective lack of oversight within the international scheme to promote and certify “sustainable” palm oil suppliers, in the midst of annual meetings of the group in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Editor's note: Just how many legal and illegal migrant workers in Malaysia? 6.7 million? This was indicated as 2.2 million legal and 4.5 million illegal by Malaysian Minister of Human Resources Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem, Nov 2014. This foreign worker figure represents a massive rise in the number of foreign workers. 

Migrant Workers: Malaysia's 'Invisible' Workforce Tuesday, 10 February 2015 by Teh Wei Soon; According to UN statistics from 2014, there are around 232 million international immigrants in the world, a number which is increasing every year. Call them migrant worker, guest worker, foreign labour or for the professional working class, the term ‘expatriate’ is still used, the term “migrant worker” has various connotations in different parts of the world. According to the United Nations, the definition is broad and it may include any persons working outside of their country of birth....  In Malaysia, migrant workers come from more than 12 countries in Asia with the majority coming from Indonesia, according to Fair Labour Association, an international non-profit collaboration promoting international labour laws.  Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines also supply a large number of the migrant workers population in Malaysia.... Migrant Workers : The Hidden Economic Catalyst. In an interview with Malaysian Digest, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan (pic) said there are currently 2.8 to 2.9 million migrant workers in Malaysia. Foreign labour, especially the blue-collar workers, contributes quite significantly to the national economy as they contribute about 10%-11% to national economy....Although the Government has promised to cut down the influx of migrant workers, but it is undeniable that migrant workers are often accused as a wage depressant in Malaysia as their number has rocketed from 1,470,000 in 2004  o 2,100,000 in 2009....

The Number Of Foreign Workers In Malaysia Is Greater Than The Population of These Nations by Mei Mei Chu — 18 Mar 2015; There are over 2,070,000 million foreign workers employed legally in Malaysia. Let us put that into perspective for you.... In contrast, Department of Statistics’ latest published figures on population shows ethnic Indian population as at end of Sep 30, 2014 is 1.98 million....

Illegal Immigrants: Are They A Threat To Our Health? 20 November 2014; Just this month, Malaysian Minister of Human Resources Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem claimed that there are 4.5 million illegal immigrants out of the total 6.7 million foreign workers in Malaysia. Aside to the possible safety threats, this seems to be causing a lot of discomfort amongst Malaysians as illegal immigrants appear to be a contributing factor to the resurgence of certain infectious diseases in our country, previously thought to have been under control..... 

Thanks to a reader for pointing this one out:

Malaysian politician plans to turn 'beautiful' death camp where human traffickers left more than 100 people to die in bamboo cages into a tourist attraction By HANNAH PARRY FOR MAILONLINE 1 June 2015; Jungle camps used by human traffickers in Malaysia contain 139 graves. Desperate migrants held in horror camps for months by criminal gangs

Malaysian authorities say some human remains show signs of torture. Politician suggested plans to turn 'beautiful' camp into a tourist attraction. Read more: 

18 December 2015: Cops yet to arrest anyone linked to mass graves in Perlis, Top Thai policeman seeks political asylum in Australia - fears for his life  

Cops yet to arrest anyone linked to mass graves in Perlis Published: 18 December 2015... Almost seven months after mass graves believed to be of human trafficking victims were discovered at Wang Kelian in Perlis, Malaysian police have yet to arrest anyone.  SAC Goh Kok Liang, head of the team investigating the case, said last month that six foreign suspects had been identified, but they were still at large today. “No development, we are still tracking them down,” he said when contacted in Kuala Lumpur.  He admitted that police did not know whether the six, believed to be Thais and Myanmar, were still in the country. Police announced in May the discovery of graves with 106 skeletal remains believed to be of Rohingyas, and 28 human trafficking camps. The 139 graves, some of them empty, sat atop a hill hundreds of metres above sea level. Thai police charged 88 people, including a general, with human trafficking last month. - See more at:

Top Thai policeman seeks political asylum in Australia, fears for his life By Mark Davis 10 Dec 2015; A senior Thai policeman who headed an investigation into human trafficking for the country's military government has fled Thailand in fear of his life and is now requesting political asylum in Australia. Police Major General Paween Pongsirin had been investigating the trafficking of Muslim Rohingya migrants after the discovery of mass graves and 26 corpses in southern Thailand in early May. The bodies are believed to be those of Rohingya refugees and were victims of the traffickers. Major General Paween claims his investigation was stopped by highly influential people within the government, the military and the police. He said high-ranking government officials repeatedly obstructed the investigation. "A lot of government officials should be facing justice," Major General Paween told 7.30....At the beginning of November, Major General Paween was told he was being transferred to the south of Thailand, where many of the suspects he is pursuing live and have influence. But he formally resigned before being transferred, citing serious concerns for his security. He now fears for his life....

29 September 2015: Bangkok bombings retaliation against Thai gov't clampdown on human trafficking,  US embassy issues terrorism warning for Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur, US lawmakers call for probe into Malaysia’s ‘favourable’ human-trafficking ranking

US lawmakers call for probe into Malaysia’s ‘favourable’ human-trafficking ranking Published: 29 September 2015 7:34 AM - See more at:

Editor: May also be related to alert on Jalan Alor in KL, issued by US authorities a few days ago.

Bangkok bombings retaliation against Thai gov't clampdown on human trafficking: spokesman  by |  2015-09-28 20:12:46 | Editor: huaxia; BANGKOK, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The two bombing attacks in Bangkok last month were retaliation against Thai government's suppression of human trafficking gangs, the authorities said Monday.Any other possibilities are not yet ruled out, though there is no validity in other motives, Winthai Suwaree, spokesman of the National Council for Peace and Order, told a televised press briefing. The authorities have so far apprehended Bilal Mohammed, alias Adem Karadak, and Mieraili Yusufu, two of the 17 suspects now facing arrest warrants, Winthai said, adding they have proven to be involved in the blasts at Erawan Shrine and the Sathorn Pier on Aug. 17 and 18. The Aug. 17 bombing killed 20 people and injured more than 100 others, while the subsequent one caused no casualties....Political motives cannot yet be ruled out, outgoing national police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang told the press conference. Mohammed and Yusufu, whose nationalities have yet to be confirmed, have confessed their crimes and were taken to reenact the crime at the sites on Saturday, according to Winthai. The reenactment of the incidents in relevant areas has proven to be consistent with the evidence and investigation result, he said....

US embassy issues terrorism warning for Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur Published: 25 September 2015 7:18 AM - See more at:

23 August 2015: Several more graves found at Perlis-Thai border, FGV denies raising wages, NGOs call on RSPO open investigation of WSJ findings on FGV, Malaysia Home Minister's brother, former Sec-Gen and others in collaboration with  Bangladesh Association of International Recruitment Agencies propose system for 1.5 million migrants workers

 Several more graves found at Perlis-Thai border Posted on 23 August 2015 - 10:38am;.. Meanwhile in ALOR SETAR, a source from the national security forces confirmed that the graves were located near the ones found by the police in May.  "They are old graves, but recently discovered by the country's security forces. They are located not far from the graves that we found last May," he told Bernama, here tonight. Another source said the new graves were located higher than the graves discovered in May at Bukit Wang Burma. ...

Wages of plantation workers not raised, says Felda Published: 17 August 2015 10:54 PM; "We have not raised the wages of our plantation workers, including palm oil mill employees, and other general workers, by 8 to 10% effective April 1, 2015, as suggested in the report. - See more at:

Modern slavery found in RSPO member Felda Global Ventures’ oil palm plantations  By Chris Lang 5 August 2015; WSJ Journalist Syed Zain Al-Mahmood spoke to Mohammad Rubel, a 22-year-old, who was transported from Bangladesh by human smugglers in December 2014. Since then he has been working seven days a week without receiving any pay: ....To get here, Mr. Rubel said, he endured three weeks in a crowded boat with inadequate food and water, followed by more weeks confined in a jungle camp while guards extorted a ransom from his parents back home. He said he saw dozens of fellow illegal migrants die from exhaustion, disease or beatings. “If I had known what was waiting, I would never have left home,” Mr. Rubel said. One of Rubel’s jobs is spraying pesticides, including paraquat, which is banned in the EU, because of its toxicity. Rubel was given protective clothing, but no training in using pesticides. He told the Wall Street Journal that spraying paraquat makes his head spin. Felda Global Ventures runs more than 700,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Of these, more than 300,000 hectares are certified under the RSPO. Almost 85% of the workers on Felda Global Ventures’ plantations are foreigners. It isn’t clear whether Rubel works on a RSPO certified plantation. But under RSPO rules, certified companies cannot have major non-compliances with RSPO’s principles and criteria anywhere in their operations, including on non-certified plantations. It’s not controversial to note that slavery qualifies as a major non-compliance with RSPO rules. A coalition of NGOs produced a statement calling on the RSPO, the Malaysian government, and international buyers to conduct an open investigation into the Wall Street Journal’s findings.

Outrage at claims of migrants enslaved on Malaysian palm plantations - Workers from as far as Bangladesh tell of abuses on Felda's estates. Philip Jacobson reports - Monday 3 August 2015 ; The International Organization for Migration estimates that 25,000 Southeast Asian migrants, mainly Rohingyas fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis, took to the seas in the first three months of the year. The Journal article features the account of a young Bangladeshi, Mohammad Rubel, who said a human smuggler lured him abroad with promises of well-paying plantation work, and then subjected him to beatings and abuse during a horrific sea voyage to southern Thailand, where he was held for ransom in a jungle camp until relatives could buy his freedom. After that, Rubel’s captors marched him into Malaysia and turned him over to different operatives who took him to the town of Jempol, where a contractor supplying Felda with labor gave him a job...In a statement issued Monday in response to the investigation, Felda reiterated company policies obliging it to do right by its employees and invited the Journal to “share details of these individuals and locations in order for us to investigate these isolated incidents.” “We also question why [the Journal] is targeting [Felda] in its report when most plantation companies employs[sic] foreign workers,” Felda added....Malaysian palm oil is on the US State Department’s “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor,” under both categories. Indonesian palm oil is only included under the child labor category, but a 2013 investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek revealed “widespread abuses of basic human rights” in “a tightly controlled system of forced labor” on 12 plantations in Indonesia....A variety of reports on labor rights violations in the sector have been released in recent years, including one in 2014 by Finnwatch, a Finnish civil society organization focusing on corporate responsibility, which found serious abuses in Malaysian palm-oil giant...

Zahid's kin eyes system for 1.5m Bangladeshis 7:31AM Aug 11, 2015; By Aidila Razak  A firm owned by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s brother is in talks with Dhaka and Putrajaya to provide a management system for the 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers Malaysia intends to allow in through a new business-to-business system. Real Time Networking Sdn Bhd, in which Zahid’s brother Abdul Hakim Hamidi is executive chairperson, aims to provide an online system where, for a fee, workers can be registered and monitored from Bangladesh and Malaysia.  Zahid is also home minister, and the approval of foreign workers into Malaysia comes under his ministry’s purview. Real Time’s online system - dubbed Workforce Management & Networking System (Workman) - is similar to that provided by Bestinet, a firm owned by former home minister Azmi Khalid. Bestinet’s agreement with the government was suspended earlier this year after outcry by recruitment agents in sending countries over its high service fees....

Malaysia DPM's brother owns the company Star Report 12:00 AM, August 12, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:33 AM, August 12, 2015;   A Malaysian firm owned by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's brother is in talks with Dhaka and Putrajaya to provide a management system for the 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers Malaysia wants to recruit through private sector, reported Malaysian news portal, Malaysiakini, yesterday. Real Time Networking Sdn Bhd, in which Zahid's brother Abdul Hakim; Star Report Hamidi is executive chairperson, aims to provide an online system where, for a fee, workers can be registered and monitored from Bangladesh and Malaysia. Zahid is also home minister, and the approval of foreign workers into Malaysia comes under his ministry's purview. Real Time's online system - dubbed Workforce Management & Networking System (Workman) - is similar to that provided by Bestinet, a firm owned by former home minister Azmi Khalid. Bestinet's agreement with the government was suspended earlier this year after outcry by recruitment agents in sending countries over its high service fees. When contacted, Hakim confirmed that Real Time was eyeing the deal but stressed that it was not a government contract. Rather, it is in collaboration with the Bangladesh Association of International Recruitment Agencies (Baira).
“We have the model of a system where we get a payment for a package [service] and we can send people [from Bangladesh] for 60,000 Bangladeshi taka (RM3,000), including the air ticket.
“This is not a government contract. Yes, their government [Bangladesh] need to approve because it involves citizens but they are only monitoring,” Hakim said. If approved, agencies such as the Immigration Department and Manpower Department will be linked to Real Time's system and all recruitment agents must go through Real Time to send workers to Malaysia. He, however, refuted any claim of nepotism, arguing that he was experienced in the field and that in a democratic country he could do anything, other than be a drug pusher. Documents show that Real Time was incorporated in March this year....Hakim is listed as executive chairperson in the Real Time proposal and other correspondence, but he is not registered as an office-bearer with the Companies Commission of Malaysia. Instead, his son Mohd Akmal, 25, is a director, along with former Home Ministry deputy secretary-general Raja Azahar Raja Abdul Manap, and one Salihah Kasim, 25. Salihah shares the same address as Abu Hanif Abul Kashem, another director of both Real Time and Warisan Juara Padu, a Bangladeshi national and Malaysian permanent resident. Abu Hanif is also listed by Baira as an “overseas representative of Baira”, in a letter to Zahid dated June 24. According to Hakim, there are at least two other firms vying for the deal, but the Bangladeshi government is keen on the Real Time system.....Baira has also endorsed the system in the June 24 letter signed by its president Abul Basher to Malaysian home minister. However, Baira Vice President Ali Haider Chowdhury denied that Baira had any stake in Real Time.

Disqualify application by Zahid’s brother to recruit foreign workers, says DAP Published: 12 August 2015 9:41 AM - See more at:

28 July 2015: The Pope talks human trafficking as well as climate

Climate, trafficking and the pope: The ecology of planetary woes | The Economist -|newe|27-07-2015|

Those used for a long time to quasi bonded labour systems may be facing less and less acceptance and need to start changing?

27 July 2015: WSJ alleges worker abuse at Malaysia palm oil plantations - Felda/FGV worker link to controversial jungle transit camps? Felda will investigate. Thailand stays at bottom rung of US human trafficking but Malaysia gets upgraded.

Note: Many analysts have been wondering where the Rohingya worker demand was from in Peninsula.

WSJ claims link of Felda oil palm to Rohingya camp system (recall the horror death camp finds in May 2015).

Felda Global press statement.....In the meantime, we request Wall Street Journal share details of these individuals and locations in order for us to investigate these isolated incidents. We welcome the evidence from Wall Street Journal which will allow us to take the necessary steps to eliminate mistreatment or exploitation of workers on our plantations.....

Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations - Global palm-oil industry contributes to human trafficking, rights advocates say By Syed Zain Al-Mahmood  July 26, 2015 1:55 p.m. ET JEMPOL, Malaysia—On a sun-scorched hillside, bulldozers clear land to plant more of the trees that yield palm oil, which is used in everything from Oreos to Pop-Tarts to Old Spice deodorant. Demand for palm oil has surged in recent years, making it the most-consumed vegetable oil in the world. Nearby, an army of migrant workers toils in the heat, using long poles with attached sickles to saw off fruit bunches high in the trees, then...

Alleged Worker Abuse at Malaysian Palm-Oil Plantations    7/26/2015 1:27PM     The palm-oil plantations of Malaysia have become magnets for refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar. Many have complained of onerous working conditions and few legal protections.... The smugglers kept us for 21 days on a boat and then 27 days in a jungle camp in Thailand... After making me work for more than a month, the contractor didn't pay me. That happened over and over. Because I'm an illegal, there was nothing I could do... labour contractors.... Felda will investigate... 

Felda plantations using forced labour, says WSJ Published: 27 July 2015 10:30 AM Today a WSJ report says illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Rohingya working in oil palm plantations are denied wages. – The Malaysian Insider filepic, July 27, 2015.Malaysia’s human-trafficking record is once again under scrutiny with claims that the palm oil industry is one of the worst offenders in the use of forced labour in plantations. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports today of illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Rohingya employed in plantations were denied wages and suffered other forms of abuse. A plantation controlled by Felda Global Ventures, the world’s largest plantation operator, is cited as one of the employers of forced labour in the WSJ article. .... WSJ reports Felda denying that its workers, nearly 85% of them foreigners, have had their wages and passports withheld. Most of the foreign workers at Felda plantations are hired through third parties. The palm oil industry is worth about US$30 billion (RM115 billion) globally and Malaysia exports about US$12 billion of the world’s most consumed vegetable oil....
U.S. report highlights suspected Thai official role in human trafficking By Amy Sawitta Lefevre  Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:15am EDT Related:  World,  Thailand  The U.S. government's decision to keep Thailand on its list of worst human-trafficking centers for an unprecedented two straight years highlights the suspected role of Thai officials in the trade despite government efforts to stop it.
The State Department's annual report on human-trafficking, published on Monday, comes days after Thailand indicted 72 people, including fifteen state officials, over suspected links to human trafficking.Their arrests came as a result of what Thai police called their biggest-ever investigation into human trafficking. But the crackdown in May and June came too late to be considered for the U.S. report, which covers Thai government efforts to eliminate trafficking for the year through to March. The U.S. decision is likely to anger authorities in Bangkok after the May-June Thai crackdown led human smugglers to abandon jungle camps and interrupted the flow of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar through Thailand.....The most senior official to face human trafficking charges is Manus Kongpan, a three-star Thai army general who surrendered to police on June 2. He denies all charges, which include human trafficking, holding people for ransom and hiding corpses.
Manus previously headed an operation to intercept migrants in the Andaman Sea for the Internal Security Operations Command, Thailand's powerful, military-run equivalent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.Police General Aek Angsanont, deputy national police chief and the person in charge of the recent crackdown on the human trafficking syndicates in Thailand, said on Sunday that going after officials would be tough......The decision to keep Thailand on Tier 3 makes it the first time Thailand has languished on the lowest tier for two consecutive years since the report began in 2001.A Reuters investigation this month raised questions about the long-term effectiveness of Thailand's crackdown on the syndicates.Police spearheading the campaign told Reuters how they encountered official indifference about the evidence they had gathered on trafficking networks - even after the State Department downgraded Thailand in 2014 and the military government vowed to "prevent and suppress human trafficking". And while 72 people have been arrested in the recent crackdown, experts warn the region's trafficking infrastructure is largely intact and influential figures remain at large.....

US human trafficking report under fire as Cuba and Malaysia are upgraded by Annie Kelly, Monday 27 July 2015 15.24 BST; The United States is facing criticism after it removed Cuba and Malaysia from the US State Department’s list of the countries categorically failing to respond to widespread human trafficking. Both countries have been upgraded from tier 3 in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons report, the worst ranking given by State Department’s annual overview of the actions taken by countries across the world to tackle modern slavery and trafficking. ...Anti-trafficking groups have expressed concern at the “transparent” political motivations of this year’s rankings, which they claim call the integrity and impartiality of the report into question. “We are very surprised by this year’s report, which seems to be making blatantly political decisions that we consider will have a really detrimental impact on both the integrity of the report and progress in the global fight to end modern slavery,” says Melysa Sperber, director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (Atest)..... In an interview following the leaking of the proposed upgrade last week, Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he saw the move as politically motivated.
“You have to earn your way up the ladder, not just have political expediency be the reason that you get moved from tier 3,” he said.  ....Malaysia was also given an upgrade to the tier 2 watch list after a year on tier 3. It comes as President Obama works to smooth the way for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge US-led free trade deal with Malaysia and 11 other countries across south-east Asia. Malaysia’s upgrade removes a potential barrier to getting the trade deal finalised, as countries on tier 3 are theoretically barred from fast-tracked trade deals. Over the past year Malaysia has been accused of widespread forced labour in its electronics industry, an industry used by major global electronics brands such as Samsung, Sony and Apple. It has also faced allegations of forced labour and trafficking in its palm oil industry.  The upgrade also follows international outcry over the discovery of 139 graves in jungle trafficking camps near the border with Thailand, used to hold thousands of stateless Rohingya migrants to ransom. The US State Department said that the discovery of the camps happened after the cut-off for evidence-gathering for the TiP report.  “We are disappointed in the extreme,” says Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International.....


1 July 2015: Nine foreigners linked with human trafficking syndicate held

Nine foreigners linked with human trafficking syndicate held Last updated on 30 June 2015 - 06:38pm  by Charles Ramendran BERNAMA KUALA LUMPUR: Seven Myanmar nationals and two Bangladeshis were held in Kedah on Monday for their alleged involvement in smuggling migrants in an ongoing operation against human trafficking. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar (pix) said today the foreigners were detained for investigations as they are believed to be part of human trafficking syndicates operating in Kedah. He said the latest arrests bring the total number of those held to 19 since the discovery of human trafficking camps in Perlis and the influx of 1,019 foreigners in Langkawi in May. Khalid said in May, eight Bangladeshis, a Myanmar and a Malaysian were detained over the landing of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Langkawi. He added that the detained Malaysian man whose boat was used to ferry the migrants was charged in court on June 20 under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act (ATIPSOM). All those detained are being probed under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, (SOSMA)....

2 June 2015: US TPP / Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and Malaysia labour wranglings...

Wong Chen  1 hr · ....Today, I will like do a short report on the issue of the TPPA and the current legal wranglings in the US Senate and House of Representative......In 2014, the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) downgraded Malaysia to a Tier 3 status. This is the lowest possible standard which essentially means that the Malaysian government is not doing anything to combat modern slavery, has no basic anti-human trafficking standards and inadequate victim assistance program. How serious is this classification? It is very serious, America can, if t wants to, imposes sanctions on a Tier-3 nation.......This is a major problem to TPPA, because America cannot "morally" negotiate a trade pact with a Tier-3 nation.......So the Obama and the Najib administrations probably got together and worked out a plan to improve Malaysia's standing on the matter. The big showcase was the debated Anti human trafficking bill in Parliament, just 2 weeks ago. This initiative is suppose to enable the US to "brush-over' the issue and demonstrate that Najib is actually serious about the human trafficking problem, hence keep Malaysia in the TPPA negotiating table....... But then the Rohingya boat people story broke at the same time. To make things worse, Najib failed to act swiftly and decisively despite the eyes of the world on him. Then things got much worse as news of the 139 graves in Perlis broke....... In the meantime, the US again scrambled to help keep Malaysia on the TPPA table where it wanted to produce a watered down clause on slavery. However last Friday, that watered down provision was NOT included in the bill for fast-track....... Today, Senator Menendez who worked on the watered down bill (that did not pass) had a big change of heart and said: “With those images fresh in our minds, with new revelations of the scope of the trafficking problem in Malaysia and other countries coming every day, now is the time for our colleagues in the House to add their voice to a clear statement of bipartisan American values: no fast track for human traffickers,”....... So there you have it. Malaysia now faces the prospect of being ingloriously booted out of the TPPA negotiations on slavery grounds....... The ball is now back to the US House of Representatives where they may yet try to rescue Najib's TPPA dreams. Alternatively, the Obama government may magically taichi Malaysia back into Tier-2 status....... The irony is not lost that Obama, representing the great hope of the Black community in America, of which the large majority are descendants of slaves, is still backing his golf buddy on a slavery issue.......


2 June 2015: US State Dept rep Richards visited detention camps and "satisfied with the conditions"; most read in Malaysia newspapers - Rohingya women raped at transit camps

Rohingya women raped at transit camps Updated: Tuesday June 2, 2015 MYT 12:02:01 AM
ALOR SETAR: Female Rohingya migrants detained at a human trafficking transit camp in Padang Besar, Thailand, were treated like sex slaves.    Nur Khaidha Abdul Shukur, 24, who was held for eight days with her baby at the camp, said the women were also gang-raped by camp guards. 
She said: "Every night, two or three young and pretty Rohingya women were taken out from the detention pens by the guards to a clandestine place.     "Two young women at the camp became pregnant after the gang rape," she said to Bernama through an interpreter here.

Rohingya crisis won’t affect Malaysia’s 2015 human trafficking report, says US BY RAM ANAND Published: 1 June 2015 3:44 PM Thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were stranded at sea after being abandoned by human traffickers. – Reuters pic, June 1, 2015.Malaysia's handling of the Rohingya refugee crisis will not influence its ranking in the 2015 Trafficking in Person (TIP) report by the US State Department, US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Migration and Refugees Anne C. Richard said today. "The US is currently reviewing Malaysia's efforts in its 2015 report," she said during a press conference in Putrajaya today. "However, the 2015 report covers until March 2015, which mean Malaysia's handling of this crisis will only be reflected in the 2016 report," she said, refusing to comment further. Thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were recently stranded at sea after being abandoned by human traffickers, with Malaysia sending some boats back to sea after refusing to take in the refugees. Malaysia also recently discovered mass graves and human trafficking camps in Perlis, near the Malaysia-Thailand border. The country ranked a lowly Tier 3 in the 2014 TIP report, making it one of the countries with the worst human trafficking records. She also said that Malaysia should work closely with the United Nations refugee arm UNHCR to solve the current crisis and handle the refugees who have come to Malaysia. "UNHCR has the expertise and that kind of expertise is needed here," she said. Richard revealed that she had visited the detention centre where refugees were being held in Kedah and said she was satisfied with the conditions they are being kept in.

28 May 2015: Initial investigations find Malaysian enforcement officers had collaborated with traffickers, Bar Council calls for Royal Commission of Inquiry, Bangladesh Daily Star - at least 250,000 Bangladeshis have been held in the jungles of Thailand for ransom over the past eight years

Bar Council demands RCI on migrant mass graves Thursday May 28, 2015 05:43 PM GMT+8 KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — The Bar Council called today for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the mass graves and people-smuggling camps in Perlis, saying that the government cannot disclaim responsibility.
Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru said it was “perplexing” that the Malaysian authorities had failed to detect the camps that were reported to have been there for five years, adding the RCI must immediately investigate claims of complicity by enforcement agencies.
“It is inconceivable that an extremely sensitive area such as our international border with Thailand could have been left so unpatrolled and unmonitored, as to permit these ‘death camps’ to have been set up,” Steven said in a statement.
“Moreover, the circumstances in which our law enforcement agencies in charge of border protection were unable to detect the existence of these “death camps” have to be investigated,” he added.
Malaysian authorities are currently investigating the possibility that some among them are in cahoots with the human traffickers responsible for the death camps.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Tuesday initial investigations found that Malaysian enforcement officers had collaborated with traffickers with international links spanning Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

After ministry denial, mass graves with hundreds of dead immigrants found in Perlis Sunday May 24, 2015 09:47 AM GMT+8 Bangladesh-based newspaper The Daily Star reported earlier this month that at least 250,000 Bangladeshis have been held in the jungles of Thailand for ransom over the past eight years, squeezing their families of anything between TK200,000 (RM33,153) to TK350,000 Bangladeshi Taka for each captive. A Thai crackdown on trafficking following the discovery of the graves in southern Thailand have led traffickers to abandon ship, leaving thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshi migrants stranded in the Andaman Sea. Malaysia and Indonesia agreed last Wednesday to provide humanitarian assistance to the 7,000 migrants still adrift at sea, including offering temporary shelter, provided that the international community takes steps to repatriate them within a year. Human trafficking activity also put Malaysia on a US watchlist for slavery last year. - See more at: htt ://

26 May 2015: Background - refugee human trafficking tragedy - Thailand-Malaysia border camps

Malaysian trafficking camps 'abandoned after crackdown' Tue May 26, 2015 1:15am EDT  WANG KELIAN, Malaysia  |  By Praveen Menon and Andrew R.C. Marshall  Malaysian authorities said on Monday they had found 139 graves, some containing more than one body, around 28 camps scattered along a 50-km (30 mile) stretch of the border in the northern state of Perlis. The grisly find follows the discovery of shallow graves on the Thai side of the border at the beginning of May, which helped trigger a regional crisis. The find led to a crackdown on the camps by Thai authorities, after which traffickers abandoned thousands of migrants in overloaded boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. State news agency Bernama quoted Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, as saying that the camps were thought to have been occupied since 2013, and two were "only abandoned between two and three weeks ago". Khalid told reporters on Monday that police had been "shocked by the cruelty" of the fenced camps, where he said there were signs of torture. HELD FOR RANSOM - Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are ferried by traffickers through southern Thailand each year, and in recent years it has been common for them to be held in remote camps along the border with Malaysia until a ransom is paid for their freedom. Past Reuters investigations have shown ransoms demands ranging from $1,200 to $1,800, a fortune for impoverished migrants used to living on a dollar or two a day.....Residents in the town of Wang Kelian, on the Malaysian side of the border, said they were used to seeing migrants in the area. "They are often starving, not eaten for weeks," said Abdul Rahman Mahmud, a resident who runs a small hostel. "They eat seeds or leaves or whatever they can find. It's a real pity and it's sad to see this."...

Mass graves of suspected trafficking victims found in Malaysia - Graves could contain remains of dozens of Bangladeshi and Burmese Rohingya migrants; by Simon Lewis in Rangoon and agencies in Kuala Lumpur Sunday 24 May 2015 17.54 BST

5 April 2015: Background - Malaysia drops to Tier 3, lowest ranking in US human trafficking report 

Malaysia drops to Tier 3, lowest ranking in US human trafficking report Published: 20 June 2014 11:19 PM The annual Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US government has this year moved Malaysia to the lowest ranking. - Pic courtesy of the US State Department website, June 20, 2014. The United States government has downgraded Malaysia along with three other countries – Thailand, The Gambia and Venezuela – to Tier 3 in its annual Trafficking of Persons (TIP) Report. Listing out these countries' "broken promises" over several years, the US said placing these countries on the lowest possible ranking was due to the lack of insufficient action against human trafficking, CNN reported today. The TIP report released by the State Department is a gauge of a particular country's response to fighting modern-day slavery.....In a damning statement on the Malaysian government's poor efforts in this regard, the report noted that  there is ample evidence of forced labour and sex trafficking in Malaysia…….. According to CNN, the report especially highlights Malaysia's problem with migrants from other Asian nations who seek work on farms, factories and construction sites only to be trapped and have their passports taken and wages withheld…. The report ranks governments based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking, advance reforms and target resources for prevention, protection and prosecution programmes…….. The TIP report said that Malaysia had made "inadequate efforts to improve its flawed victim-protection regime" and had investigated fewer trafficking cases in 2013 than in 2012. The Malaysian downgrade had been largely expected. Luis CdeBaca (pic), ambassador-at-large of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, cited Malaysia's repeated non-compliance in meeting minimum anti-trafficking standards. "Malaysia continues to have a victim care regime that basically locks up the victims," Cdebaca told CNN, adding "... the report doesn't look at promises. It looks at results." ....The TIP report divides nations into three tiers based on their compliance with 11 "minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking"…… – Tier 1 countries include governments fully compliant with the minimum standards. – Tier 2 countries do not fully comply, but are making significant efforts to do so. (A Tier 2 Watch List includes countries with a high number of victims, or where the numbers are significantly increasing. It also includes countries where there is insufficient evidence of acceptable efforts to improve anti-trafficking programmes). – Tier 3 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards and have not shown the US they are making significant efforts to do so......Apart from the three other countries which had been downgraded, Malaysia joins a Tier 3 list of countries which comprises Algeria, Central African Republic, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Zimbabwe. …

22 December 2014: 12,000 more Bangladeshi workers

The tale of 'Just-A-Man' and our $50 billion by Rubana Huq Published: 12:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2014; IT'S not the best hour to land at an airport and it's certainly not the best time to pen a column. At 5:00 am Kuala Lumpur is also not as pretty as it normally is. But there are too many faces asking for direction to immigration, baggage claim et al. And your columnist has just turned into a happy tourist in transit providing services. These are the people who shape the contours of Bangladesh today. A quick look at yesterday's The Borneo Times would make anyone happy. A new deal between the Malaysian Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot and Bangladesh's Minister of Expatriates' and Foreign Workers' Welfare Khandker Mosharraf Hossain has just been inked which will facilitate employment of 12000 more Bangladeshi workers. These 12000 workers will be joining the palm oil plantations. Incidentally these are the faces which bring back home floral quilt covered suitcases, occasionally face the immigration humiliation and yet send remittances that make us rich. In the first nine months of the country, Bangladeshi workers from Malaysia have remitted RM4.28 billion back home. Apparently only in Malaysia, ranked right after the Indonesian workers, Bangladeshis send in most of their money home....

8 December 2014:  Contesting child and forced labour concerns

‘Malaysia doesn’t condone child, forced labour’ By TASNIM LOKMAN - 6 December 2014 @ 8:12 AM, KUALA LUMPUR: "MALAYSIA has never condoned child or forced labour, as alleged by the United States Department of Labor (DOL)... Nevertheless, the government was investigating the claims and would take action against anyone found to be engaging in such activities.A joint statement from the International Trade and Industry; Plantation Industries and Commodities; and Home ministries yesterday said the government had embarked on a series of discussions with US representatives here, as well as DOL in Washington DC, for more details and to register the country’s concern over such allegations borne out of a Verite Inc. survey.... The study, the statement said, included a small sample size of 501 workers in the electronics industry. This, it said, did not represent the number of foreign workers in Malaysia, with the electronic and electrical industry alone employing 300,000 foreigners... The statement also said multinational companies (MNCs) in the electronic and electrical industry here were members of the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and were governed by the coalition’s code of conduct, meaning they were in compliance with its standards..."

Citing study, ministry denies US claims of child labour in palm oil sector BY EILEEN NG  Published: 3 December 2014; "The oil palm industry is a major component of the agriculture sector and a major export revenue earner. The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry today denies an American report claiming that the sector employed children. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, December 3, 2014.The oil palm industry is a major component of the agriculture sector and a major export revenue earner. The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry today denies an American report claiming that the sector employed children. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, December 3, 2014.There is no child or forced labour in Malaysia's palm oil sector, Putrajaya said, in response to a US Department of Labour list that cites the country's billion-ringgit industry for employing children.... The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry said a six-month survey completed in June this year on 68 plantations and smallholdings in several states found that there was no forced or child labour in the sector.The survey was conducted in Selangor, Perak, Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak and covered 1,632 workers.... "In the case of Sabah, the study shows children of foreign workers accompanying their parents to the work area due to lack of supervision at home and assisting in simple tasks such as loose fruit collection. "However, this is only allowed after school hours, weekends and holidays," the ministry said in a statement to The Malaysian Insider. The survey was based on International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines which covered workers, employers and labour contractors. Interviews with workers were conducted without the presence of the employers.... The finding did reveal cases of employers withholding the passports of foreign workers, but said such instances were minimal, amounting to 0.4% of the total respondents. It added that there was an active labour market in oil palm plantations where foreign workers could find alternative work...."

Ministries to look into forced labour allegations in E&E sector, says Mustapa Published: November 18, 2014 06:27 PM; "Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said the authorities will look into the allegations of forced labour published in news reports earlier. — Bernama picDatuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said the authorities will look into the allegations of forced labour published in news reports earlier. — Bernama picKUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — The ministries of International Trade and Industry Ministry and Human Resource will look into the allegations on forced labour the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector in Malaysia.... According to news report, the US Labour Department would put Malaysian on the “International Ranking on Forced Labour” watch list in December on findings from a global non-governmental organisation, Verite, on labour issues in the sector.... The US Labour Department-funded Verite highlighted several issues regarding employment in the country’s E&E sector including deceptive recruitment, poor living conditions and passport retention. “This could be on misinformation. We will have constant engagements with the relevant authorities regarding the issues...."

Prof Milner on Malaysian foreign policy

Is Malaysia committed to USA and China at the same time? Some contradictions and looking both ways. Moving back and forth goes back to Malaysia's early history. Is it balancing, bandwagoning or hedging? Some regard this as a calculative rather than principled approach.
What does history show? Objective to be friendly to all suggests an equidistant approach but note the following three puzzles.
Malaysia's 1974 quick recognition of China in advance of others in the region seems surprising. It did get strong commitments but it's domestic situation: communist conflict and recent racial riots were a surprising context for this move.
Promotion of regionalism rooted in regional identity. Started in 1959. Reputed pro-Western Tunku government did not join US focused regionalism. Malaysia put a special emphasis on cultural and social underpinning of regionalism. Frequency of meeting and fostering a sense of community and identity has been emphasised. Is it drawing less attention on economic and administrative issues? Is it a natural tendency in Malay world to berkampung or build a community?
A third puzzle is its reaction to South China Seas disputes. It downplays tension and downplays tension. On James Shoal visit by China, Malaysia has said its daily patrols are fine so long as it doesn't lead to war. Some say it's surprisingly passive relative to Vietnam and Philippines reactions.
Pre-1957 history shows that the Johore and Kedah elites have long had to deal with foreign policy. Three themes from the kerajaan world can be explored.
The sultanates are based on rivers with limited populations and high value was placed on subjects numbers to attract more. Rulers were in hierarchy within the archipelago and further. The status of a ruler is different from the nation state.
Pre modern concepts: nama, group binding and moral balance. Nama shows Malay rulers were involved in hierarchy diplomacy. Seeking to understand and identify opportunity. Concern for nama or prestige consistent with hierarchy. Thus less fear of the rise of China. In the past Malacca saw rise of China as opportunity to advance its position; to make Malaysia more special in the region.
Nama system does not require sovereignty. Nama saw overlapping sovereignty. It shows absence of concern on territorial sovereignty. Subjects or people more valued than territory eg. 1870 Sultan of Terreanganu did not know the boundary of his territory. Is laid back view on South China Seas to seek opportunity?
Diplomatic and cultural virtuosity needed in hierarchical nama system. Group binding points to need to build bonding to get practical cooperation and collaboration. Berkampung to build a sense of community. If regionalim was functional then it may focus on economic and security but it does more.
Monarchies reached out in all directions and were willing to reach out and not discriminating in polities. To be impartial and fair to investigate widely with wide consultation - to be adil. This can be seen as search for moral balance. An aspiration for balance is identified in wood carving, textile and pantun. Malaysia was keen to stop the great powers from unbalancing the region's neutrality. Malaysia discussion with Ukraine rebels over its downed aircraft was criticized, but PM Najib noted this approach.
Pre modern perspectives help make Malaysia's approach to foreign policy a bit less puzzling.

Energy enviro-trade politics and WTO concerns on private standards

Just sharing some nice coverage of Canada - Keystone energy-enviro (geo)politics. Investigative articles by Bloomberg looks at the problem that Canada (considered an ethical oil exporter) has had in now trying to export product from its new Alberta oil frontier to the US and China:
I find this quite interesting in two areas of resource-based industry and Malaysia research interest: a) that it parallels changing enviro-trade requirements on palm oil (although this is happening via private standards and not at G2G level**) and b) with Petronas' exposure in Canada and the changing global oil trade.
On trade issues, I just read the useful newsletter update that crossed my desk from trade lawyers, Fratini Vergano; writing on 2 May: "WTO SPS Committee Members fail again to advance their work relating to private standards - At a meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (hereinafter, SPS Committee) on 25-26 March 2014, WTO Members continued discussions relating to private standards for food safety and animal and plant health, but failed to resolve any issues. WTO Members have raised concerns regarding private standards for almost 9 years, yet little progress has been made.....In 2013, China and New Zealand submitted proposed definitions of the term ‘private standards’, which differed greatly, but they continued working on a joint proposal for a working definition of the term. Following an SPS Committee meeting on 16-17 October 2013, it was announced that China and New Zealand had produced a compromised draft definition and were in the process of working with other WTO Members to draft a definition that could be accepted by the entire SPS Committee...At the most recent SPS Committee meeting on 25-26 March 2014, some Members were not able to accept the draft... The issues relating to regulation of private standards have dragged on for almost 9 years. Reportedly, at the most recent SPS Committee meeting, China maintained that it would be “disaster” if a definition is not agreed upon soon. Additionally, it was reported that China’s concerns were shared by El Salvador, India, Ecuador and Belize, which is said to be concerned for its papaya and citrus exporters. As the focus of market access has shifted from tariff measures to non-tariff measures, private standard requirements imposed by retailers are one of many (de facto, if not de jure) non-tariff barriers that can create additional unjustified costs for exporters when those costs are not justified for SPS reasons...."