The law of the Jungle
Malaysia's palm oil industry has severe and well-documented problems with abuse of migrant workers, including widespread forced labor and human trafficking. Over 80% of the workers at palm oil plantations are migrant workers from countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal.
In 2014, the U.S. State Department’s Annual Trafficking in Persons report gave Malaysia the lowest possible rating, meaning the Malaysian Government “…does not fully comply with the minimum standards (to end human trafficking) and is not making significant efforts to do so.” Despite the State Department’s recent controversial decision to upgrade Malaysia to the Tier 2 Watch List, there is wide agreement among trafficking experts that abuses continue unabated, and the Government has failed to take meaningful steps towards addressing this severe problem.
In 2014, Finnwatch released a report finding serious labour rights violations in RSPO certified estates in Malaysia. According to the report, a major Malaysian palm oil company, IOI Group, paid wages lower than the statutory minimum wage, confiscated its workers’ passports and restricted freedom of association. A large number of IOI Group's plantation workers had no understanding of their employment contracts, which were written in (to them) a foreign language.
Download the follow-up report on this investigation published by Finnwatch in 2015