KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 ― Malaysia needs to take concrete steps to end the longstanding issue of forced labour that has been widely reported locally and internationally, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today.

While commending the federal government for Malaysia's first ever National Action Plan on Forced Labour (NAPFL) 2021-2025 launched last year, Suhakam said more tangible outcomes needed to be implemented and soon; this includes reforming the law.

“The standards set forth by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention 1930 that Malaysia has agreed to ratify, should anchor the NAPFL.

“In addition, Suhakam urges for tangible outcomes including in law reform and effective remedy to be in place the earliest possible.


“Suhakam looks forward for the NAPFL to critically address, among others, more stringent requirements for companies to implement effective due diligence procedures and grievance mechanisms, particularly in their employment practices,” it said in a statement.

The NAPFL was launched with the aim of eliminating forced labour in Malaysia by 2030.

Developed by the Human Resources Ministry with the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the NAPFL 2021-2025 focuses on awareness, enforcement, labour migration as well as access to remedy and support services to eliminate forced labour in Malaysia over the next few years.


Suhakam stressed that forced labour is a serious human rights violation and infringes the legal guarantee provided by Article 6 of the Federal Constitution which prohibits all forms of slavery and forced labour.

In addition, Suhakam said such practices contravene the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (ATIPSOM) that criminalises forced labour which is a form of exploitation of human beings.

“The issuance of numerous Withhold Release Orders (WRO) by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBD) to Malaysian companies over alleged forced labour practices signal the urgent need for Malaysia to immediately put in place effective measures to circumvent and remedy forced labour practices that is occurring in Malaysia or involving Malaysian companies,” it said.

Notwithstanding the legal provisions to be enforced by the government, Suhakam said private companies have a responsibility to comply with both national labour laws and international labour standards throughout their entire supply chain.

“These should address the various sectors including the medical supplies industry, agricultural (including plantations), construction and manufacturing sectors,” it said.

Suhakam reiterated its call for the government to ensure transparency by making public the full report of the Special Independent Committee on Foreign Worker Management.

The commission also urged the government to speed up implementation of the committee’s recommendations concerning foreign worker recruitment.

It said the government should consult relevant stakeholders, including NGOs, for long-term success.

Suhakam also called on the government to expedite the development of Malaysia's National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAPBHR) so that businesses will respect human rights.

It said the NAPBHR should be strictly guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.