Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2014, 12:47 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Thailand

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Thailand, 12 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467be3dec.html [accessed 25 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Thailand (Tier 2)

Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. Regional economic disparities drive significant illegal migration into Thailand, presenting traffickers with opportunities to force, coerce or defraud these undocumented migrants into labor or sexual exploitation. Women and children are trafficked from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, People's Republic of China (P. R. C. ), Russia, and Uzbekistan for commercial sexual exploitation in Thailand. A number of women and girls from Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam transit through Thailand's southern border to Malaysia for sexual exploitation primarily in Johor Bahru, across from Singapore. Thai and hill tribe women and girls are trafficked internally and to Japan, Malaysia, South Africa, Bahrain, Australia, Singapore, Europe, Canada, and the United States for sexual exploitation. The denial of Thai residency to ethnic minority women and girls who reside in Thailand's northern hills makes them more susceptible to trafficking and delays repatriation due to lack of citizenship. Widespread sex tourism in Thailand encourages trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Following voluntary migration to Thailand, men, women, and children, primarily from Burma, are trafficked into involuntary servitude in agricultural work, factories, construction, commercial fisheries, domestic work, and begging. Thai laborers working abroad in Taiwan, Malaysia, the United States, and the Middle East often pay excessive recruitment fees prior to departure, which may facilitate debt bondage – a form of trafficking. Children from Burma, Laos, and Cambodia are trafficked to Thailand for begging and exploitative labor, including fishing and fish processing. A report published in late 2006 by the ILO and a government university found that significant percentages of undocumented migrant workers, including children, in four key sectors of the Thai economy (fishing, construction, commercial agriculture and domestic service) are victims of involuntary servitude at the hands of Thai employers.

The Government of Thailand does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so. The government sustained impressive efforts to address trafficking for sexual exploitation but did not improve substantially in responding to incidents of labor trafficking. In September 2006, the Thai police raided a shrimp-processing factory and rescued 800 Burmese men, women, and children, many of whom were subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude, physical and psychological abuse, and confinement inside the premises through the use of barbed wire fences and document confiscation. Thai authorities classified 66 of the females as trafficking victims and provided them with appropriate shelter and psycho-social counseling services. However, an undisclosed number of the males were removed by police and deported to Burma without being interviewed to determine if they were victims of involuntary servitude. Five months later, all three factory owners were arrested and face criminal charges in addition to a civil suit and regulatory fines. The factory, which has in one past case exported shrimp to the United States, remains in operation. Current anti-trafficking legislation in Thailand only applies to trafficking resulting in sexual exploitation and fails to criminalize bonded labor or trafficking perpetuated against men. Thailand has drafted comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation that criminalizes all forms of trafficking and provides protection to men. It should pass and enact that legislation at the earliest opportunity. Thailand should show greater will to prosecute and convict exploitative employers and labor traffickers.

Prosecution

The Royal Thai Government demonstrated clear progress in its law enforcement efforts to combat sex trafficking and collaborate with civil society to investigate cases; however, the government has not yet demonstrated progress in law enforcement efforts to combat labor trafficking. Thailand criminally prohibits trafficking for sexual exploitation through its 1997 Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Women and Children Act, which prescribes penalties that are sufficiently stringent and that are commensurate with penalties prescribed for rape. Trafficking for labor exploitation is not criminally prohibited and penalties prescribed for forced labor violations tend to be administrative rather than criminal and, therefore, are not sufficiently stringent. A draft law was finalized during 2006 that will allow for prosecution of all forms of trafficking and provides greater protection, care, and compensation for victims; it awaits passage by the legislature. Government law enforcement resources are generally inadequate to cope with the magnitude of trafficking. Political uncertainty since the September 2006 military coup has further drawn financial and personnel resources away from Thai law enforcement anti-trafficking efforts.

In October, Thai police raided two karaoke bars in the southern province of Narathiwat, rescuing 34 women and child victims comprised of Thai hill tribe members and citizens of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In March 2007, a criminal court sentenced a senior military official to life imprisonment for the detention and murder of a Burmese domestic worker who was considered a trafficking victim. The Government of Thailand reported 88 arrests in cases brought against traffickers in the period from September 2005 through February 2007, involving a total of 100 victims. Corruption is still sometimes a problem, with local police or immigration officials protecting brothels, fishing and sweatshop facilities from raids and occasionally facilitating the movement of Burmese, Cambodian, Lao, and P. R. C. women and children into or through Thailand. No public officials or law enforcement officials were arrested for trafficking-related crimes in 2006.

Protection

The Thai government continued to provide impressive protection to foreign victims of sex trafficking in Thailand and Thai citizens who have returned to Thailand after facing labor or sex trafficking conditions abroad. The government's collaboration with civil society organizations to protect victims of sex trafficking remained impressive. However, male victims of trafficking are not included in the victim protection provisions of Thai law. Moreover, out of a fund of 500 million baht (equivalent to $13 million) set up by the Thai government in 2005 to fund increased trafficking victim care, only 100 million baht has been authorized for expenditure. The Thai government refers women and child victims to one of six regional shelters run by the government, where they receive psychological counseling, food, board, and medical care. However, none of these shelters is in the area of Thailand north of Phitsanulok, where victims are referred to separate, often high-quality facilities run by NGOs.

The government encourages female victim participation in the investigation and prosecution of sex trafficking crimes. The government does not provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. Female victims of sex trafficking are generally not jailed or deported; foreign victims of labor trafficking and men may be deported as illegal migrants. In the September 2006 labor trafficking case, most Burmese male workers were deported as illegal migrants, without interviewing them to determine if they were victims, while 66 females from the same factory were sent to a shelter for trafficking victims. In 2006, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs repatriated 380 women primarily trafficked for sexual exploitation to Bahrain (256 victims), Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, and Italy. In May 2006, the government repatriated to Thailand nine Shan women who were not Thai citizens but who had been trafficked to Malaysia in 2004; their repatriation to Thailand was delayed due to their lack of Thai or any other citizenship. The government provided in-kind assistance in the form of technical support, personnel, and facilities to NGOs active in anti-trafficking. The government collaborates with IOM to set up transit facilities, shelters, and referral processes to improve victim protection. In 2006, IOM returned 343 people to their home countries, including 245 Laotians, 85 Cambodians, and 13 Burmese. The government's National Trafficking Action Plan for 2005-2007 identified $34.2 million for trafficking-related project initiatives.

Prevention

The Thai government continued to support prevention and public awareness activities on sex and labor trafficking as well as sex tourism during the year. The Thai government has begun outreach programs to educate potential migrant workers about working conditions in Thailand, and to educate Thai workers about working conditions and recruitment practices abroad. In cooperation with the ILO, a migrant workers handbook was published in Lao, Burmese, Khmer, and Thai to advise migrant workers of their rights and avenues of recourse. The Ministry of Labor conducts regular seminars with all outgoing Thai workers to advise them on restrictions on labor broker fees and regulations governing foreign guest worker programs. Thailand has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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