Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Thailand

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 27 August 2008
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Thailand, 27 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48caa4923c.html [accessed 26 July 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.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor3288
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:13
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:13.5
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:12.6
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:16
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:108
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:94
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%):
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In rural areas of Thailand, children work primarily in agriculture, in the production of rubber, oranges, sugarcane, and vegetables. In urban areas, children work in the service sector in gas stations, entertainment venues, and restaurants.3289 Children also work in domestic service,3290 in small-scale industry, street vending, and in the construction, manufacturing, knitting, garment, fishery, and fishery-related sectors.3291 Large numbers of street children are present in urban centers and many of them engage in begging to earn money.3292 Some children are involved in the trafficking of drugs in Thailand3293 and are exploited in prostitution and pornography.3294 Migrant children from neighboring countries and ethnic hill tribes are more likely to be exploited in the aforementioned worst forms of child labor than are Thai citizens.3295

Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking in children, for both labor and commercial sexual exploitation, including through sex tourism.3296 Boys and girls are trafficked from Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, and Vietnam to Thailand for commercial sexual exploitation and begging.3297 Children are also trafficked into Thailand for forced labor in agriculture, construction, factories, commercial fisheries, and domestic service in private households.3298 Thai girls are trafficked abroad from Thailand for commercial sexual exploitation.3299 Internal trafficking of children occurs and members of northern Thailand's ethnic hill tribes are particularly vulnerable.3300 There are also reports of children being used illegally by separatist groups in southern Thailand to carry out attacks.3301

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years. Employers are required to notify labor inspectors if children under age 18 are hired. The law permits children ages 15 to 18 to work only between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. and with written permission from the Director-General of Labor or a person assigned by the Director-General.3302 Children under age 18 may not be employed in hazardous work, which includes any work involving manipulation of metals, hazardous chemicals, poisonous materials, radiation, harmful temperatures or noise levels; exposure to toxic micro-organisms; the operation of heavy equipment; work underground or underwater; work in places where alcohol is sold; in hotels; or in massage parlors. The maximum penalty for violation of these prohibitions is 1 year of imprisonment.3303 These provisions do not apply to the agricultural and informal sectors. However, the Ministry of Labor has issued regulations to increase protections for child workers carrying out home-based work and children working in agriculture.3304

The law guarantees the rights of all children "in Thailand" or "of all nationalities" to be protected by the State against violence and unfair treatment. Violations, such as forcing children to become beggars, to work in dangerous conditions, or to perform obscene acts, all carry penalties of 3 months imprisonment.3305 In addition, migrant laborers are covered under Thailand's labor protection laws.3306 The law prohibits forced labor except in cases of averting public calamity, war, martial law, or states of emergency.3307 In April 2007, an employer was sentenced to more than 10 years' imprisonment for forced child labor in the first-ever conviction under Thailand's anti-slavery article under the 1956 Criminal Code.3308 The minimum voluntary age for military recruitment is 18 years, while the age for compulsory recruitment is 20 years.3309

The law prohibits all forms of prostitution and provides specific penalties for cases involving children.3310 Fines and terms of imprisonment under the law are based on the age of the child involved, with more severe terms established for prostitution involving children age 15 years and younger. For example, prostitution of children ages 16 to 18 years is subject to jail terms of up to 15 years, while the range of penalties nearly doubles for those pimping and patronizing children 15 and under. The law also establishes that government officials who compel others to engage in commercial sexual exploitation face penalties of 15 to 20 years of imprisonment.3311 The law provides protection for child victims while testifying in cases of sexual exploitation.3312

The law prohibits trafficking in persons, defines trafficking-related activities to be punished, and provides for basic protection of victims. Under the law, only women and children can be considered victims of trafficking. (Thailand has passed new comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation but it did not come into force until after USDOL's reporting period.) Penalties for violations include imprisonment from 1 to 20 years depending on the age of the child and the specific nature of the violation.3313

The Ministry of Labor is the primary agency responsible for enforcement of child labor laws and policies. According to USDOS, the labor inspection system tends to be more reactive than proactive, with inspectors usually responding to public complaints or newspaper reports.3314 The USDOS also reports that a lack of resources is largely to blame for weak enforcement of child labor laws. The National Thai Working Group to Combat the Trafficking of Women and Children coordinates Government ministries and agencies with overlapping anti-trafficking responsibilities.3315 Between September 2005 and February 2007, the most recent period in which such information is available, the Government reported 88 trafficking-related arrests, involving 100 victims.3316 In 2007, the Attorney General's Office established the Center Against International Human Trafficking, devoted to coordinating the prosecution of all human trafficking cases.3317

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government maintains "woman and child labor assistance centers" in every province; facilitates the participation of communities in preventing child labor activities by appointing "labor volunteers;" and disseminates information on child labor nationwide through outreach programs. Since 2003, the Government has had a MOU with NGOs working on child protection that stipulates guidelines on providing services to victims of the worst forms of child labor.3318 The Department of Public Welfare and the Department of Skill Development provide vocational training to improve children's skills and prevent them from entering work prematurely. The Government operates a labor hotline to receive complaints about child labor.3319 In recognition of the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, 2007, the Government participated in a series of child labor awareness raising activities.3320 The Royal Thai Government implemented a National Policy and Plan of Action for the Prevention and Eradication of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, covering the period 2003 to 2007.3321

The Royal Thai Police have an ongoing public awareness campaign on trafficking and a hotline for reporting suspected trafficking cases. The Government is providing training to police officers, prosecutors, and judges on anti-trafficking laws.3322 A series of MOU, signed in 2003 to 2004 between Government agencies and domestic NGOs provide guidelines for the treatment of trafficked persons. In line with these guidelines, police are being trained to treat such individuals as victims of trafficking rather than as illegal immigrant workers, and victims become the responsibility of the Public Welfare Department instead of being deported. However, the USDOS reports that implementation of the MOUs continued to be unreliable due to insufficient training of law enforcement officials and lack of familiarity with the law.3323 In May 2007, a new domestic MOU was signed among the 17 Northern provinces to protect victims of trafficking, expanding the protection to males.3324 The Government is implementing a number of anti-trafficking programs and activities throughout the country, including prevention, prosecution, research, and rescue programs.3325

Within the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Department of Social Development and Welfare (DSDW) and IOM cooperate in assisting trafficked individuals in Thailand,3326 and the DSDW works with its counterpart agencies in both Laos and Cambodia to repatriate their nationals.3327 DSDW also operates six regional shelters for trafficked victims3328 and provides legal assistance to child victims, including counseling and rehabilitation services.3329 The Children and Women Protection Division within the Royal Thai Police has a permanent unit to handle specific cases of trafficking of children and women, and is supported by the regional offices of the Center for Children, Juveniles, and Women.3330

Along with Burma, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam, Thailand is a signatory to the "Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT)." The members have a Sub-Regional Plan of Action for 2005-2007 that translates the MOU commitments into concrete actions.3331 Thailand also participates in the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (UNIAP), which has activities targeting children exploited through trafficking.3332 Thailand has bilateral anti-trafficking MOUs with Cambodia and Laos,3333 and is working with UNICEF on several programs to assist children exploited through trafficking.3334 Thailand is one of several countries in Southeast Asia participating in a campaign by MTV to raise awareness on human trafficking.3335

The Government of Thailand is participating in a USD 3.5 million USDOL-funded project to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in agriculture, fishing, services, and domestic work, with emphasis on trafficking across sectors. The project aims to withdraw 1,670 children and prevent 3,330 children from exploitive labor in these sectors.3336 Thailand is also included in a USD 10.6 million ILO-IPEC Sub-Regional Project, funded by the United Kingdom and Japan through April 2008 to combat trafficking of women and children for exploitive labor in the Mekong subregion.3337 The UN Trust Fund for Human Security is implementing a USD 1.9 million program in the Philippines and Thailand to empower returned trafficking victims economically and socially.3338 The Government of Thailand participates as part of a project between ASEAN and AUSAID on the elimination of trafficking in women and children in four Southeast Asian countries and China's Yunnan Province.3339 Microsoft has committed over USD 240,000 to work with the Thai Government, NGOs, and the private sector to combat trafficking of women and children within Thailand through awareness raising, prevention, enforcement, and reintegration programs.3340 The Ministry of Education is working with UNICEF to provide education assistance and training to girls at high risk of being trafficked.3341


3288 For statistical data not cited here, please see the Data Sources and Definitions section. For data on ratifications and ILO-IPEC membership, please see the Executive Summary. For minimum age for admission to work, age to which education is compulsory, and free public education, see Government of Thailand, Labour Protection Act, (1998), chapter 4; available from http://natlex.ilo.org/txt/E98THA01.htm. See also Government of Thailand, National Education Act, B.E. 2542, (1999).

3289 Surapone Ptanawanit and Saksri Boribanbanpotkate, Assessing the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Selected Provinces of Thailand: Chiang Rai, Tak, Udon Thani, Songkla, and Pattani, Bangkok, February 22, 2007, 13, 31. See also ILO, Out of Work and Into School: Our Development Challenge, Bangkok, 2006, 37. See also U.S. Department of State, "Thailand," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007 Washington DC, March 11, 2008, section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100539.htm. See also U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, February 21, 2008.

3290 Nawarat Phlainoi, Thailand – Child Domestic Workers: A Rapid Assessment, ILO, Geneva, April 2002. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 6d. See also Ptanawanit and Boribanbanpotkate, Assessing the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Selected Provinces of Thailand, 13, 29, 31.

3291 Ptanawanit and Boribanbanpotkate, Assessing the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Selected Provinces of Thailand, 13, 29, 31. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 6d. See also U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, February 21, 2008. See also Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB) Migrants Section, The Mekong Challenge: Working Day and Night, The Plight of Migrant Child Workers in Mae Sot, Thailand, ILO, Bangkok, 2006, executive summary; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/workingdayandnightenglish.pdf. See also ILO, Out of Work and Into School: Our Development Challenge, 37. See also Ed Cropley, "Child Laborers Toil in Thai Seafood Factories," Washington Post, April 24, 2007; available from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/24/AR2007042401859_Inform.html.

3292 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 5. See also Ptanawanit and Boribanbanpotkate, Assessing the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Selected Provinces of Thailand, 13, 29, 31. See also UNICEF, Begging Some Difficult Questions, [online] April 2007 [cited November 21, 2007]; available from http://www.unicef.org/thailand/reallives_6619.html.

3293 Emma Porio and Christine Crisol, The Use of Children in the Production, Sales and Trafficking of Drugs, Manila, 2004, 2. See also Vittawan Sunthornkajit, Thankakorn Kaiyanunta, Pornvisid Varavarn, and Somrouy Varatechakongka, Thailand – Child Labor in Illicit Drug Activities: A Rapid Assessment, ILO, Geneva, August 2002; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/library/pub16.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 6d.

3294 ECPAT International CSEC Database, Thailand, accessed November 21, 2007; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/monitoring/online_database/index.asp. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 5. See also ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Bangkok, 2006, 12; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/A4A_2005/PDF/EAP/Global_Monitoring_Report-THAILAND.pdf. See also U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, April 12, 2007.

3295 ILO IPEC, Support for National Action to Combat Child Labor and its Worst Forms in Thailand, project document, Geneva, September 30, 2006, 13-14. See also Kovit Buraphatanin, "Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour: A Case Study of Thailand" (paper presented at the Sub-regional Seminar on the Application of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and Its Follow-up: Elimination of Child Labor, Jakarta, July 12-14, 2006). See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," sections 5, 6d. See also ILO, Out of Work and Into School: Our Development Challenge, 37.

3296 U.S Embassy-Bangkok, reporting, March 12, 2007. See also U.S. Department of State, "Thailand (Tier 2)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007, Washington, DC, June 12, 2007; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/82804.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 5. See also ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, 11-12. See also United Nations Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapportuer on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, March 15, 2007, 53.

3297 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 5. See also ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, 12.

3298 U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, August 30, 2005. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports2007: Thailand," section 5. See also United Nations Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapportuer on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, 53. See also ILO, The Mekong Challenge: Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked-The Realities of Young Migrant Workers in Thailand, Bangkok, 2006, executive summary.

3299 ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. See also ECPAT International CSEC Database, Thailand.

3300 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007: Thailand." See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 5. See also ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, 12. See also U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, March 8, 2008.

3301 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 1. See also Child Rights Information Network, "Thailand: Training of 'child soldiers' condemned", Crinmail 952, [online], January 29, 2008 [cited accessed February 19, 2008].

3302 Government of Thailand, Labour Protection Act chapter 4, sections 44-45, 49-50.

3303 Ibid., sections 22, 49-50, 148.

3304 Royal Thai Embassy official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, November 8, 2005. See also ILO, Minister Opens Discussions on Extending Protection to Millions of Informal Economy Workers, [online] June 30, 2005 [cited December 7, 2007]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/public/releases/yr2005/pr05_18.htm. See also U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, August 30, 2005. See also U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, April 12, 2007.

3305 Government of Thailand, Child Protection Act (2003), articles 14, 26, 78. See also U.S Embassy-Bangkok, reporting, March 2, 2005. ILO-IPEC, Support for National Action to Combat Child Labor and its Worst Forms in Thailand, Project Document, Geneva, September 30, 2006, 17.

3306 Government of Thailand, Thailand's Efforts in Anti-Labor Trafficking, 2008.

3307 Government of Thailand, Constitution, (2007), section 38. See also Government of Thailand, Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act B.E. 2539 (1996), section 12; available from http://natlex.ilo.org/txt/E96THA01.htm. See also Government of Thailand, Penal Code Amendment Act, No. 14, (1997).

3308 Bangkok, E-mail communication, August 5, 2008.

3309 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Thailand," in Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=880.

3310 Government of Thailand, Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act. See also U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, March 8, 2008.

3311 Government of Thailand, Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, section 8-12.

3312 Royal Thai Embassy, facsimile communication to USDOL official, September 5, 2002.

3313 Government of Thailand, Penal Code Amendment Act, section 282-283.

3314 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 6d.

3315 U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, April 12, 2007.

3316 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007: Thailand."

3317 U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, November 5, 2007.

3318 U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, August 30, 2005. See also Government of Thailand, Child Labor Review in the Production of Certain GSP-Eligible Hand-loomed or Hand-hook Carpet Lines, submitted in response to Office of the United States Trade Representative Federal Register Notice (January 18, 2008) "Generalized System of Preferences (GSP): Notice Regarding the Initiation of Child Labor Review in the Production of Certain GSP-Eligible Hand-Loomed or Hand-Hooked Carpets", Washington, DC, March 13, 2008.

3319 U.S Embassy-Bangkok, reporting, March 12, 2007. See also Government of Thailand, Child Labor Review in the Production of Certain GSP-Eligible Hand-loomed or Hand-hook Carpet Lines.

3320 ILO-IPEC, World Day Against Child Labor Country Activities: Thailand, June 12, 2007.

3321 U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting March 2, 2005.

3322 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007: Thailand." See also U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, March 12, 2007.

3323 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, August 30, 2005. See also U.S Embassy-Bangkok, reporting, March 12, 2007.

3324 ILO-IPEC, Support for National Action to Combat Child Labor and its Worst Forms in Thailand, Technical Progress Report, Geneva, September 2007.

3325 UNIAP, Thailand, accessed December 7, 2007; available from http://www.no-trafficking.org/uniap_frontend/iframe_SearchHomePage.aspx.

3326 Human Trafficking.org, International Organization for Migration, [online] [cited December 7, 2007]; available from http://humantrafficking.org/organizations/231. See also U.S Embassy-Bangkok, reporting, March 12, 2007. See also MCOT.org, Thailand Signs Pact on Human Trafficking with IOM, [online] August 7, 2007 [cited August 8, 2007]; available from http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=120710.

3327 Royal Thai Embassy, facsimile communication, September 5, 2002, 9. See also U.S Embassy-Vientiane, reporting, April 6, 2004. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Thailand," section 5.

3328 U.S. Embassy – Bangkok, reporting March 2, 2005. See also U.S Embassy-Bangkok, reporting, March 12, 2007.

3329 Royal Thai Embassy, facsimile communication, September 5, 2002, 11. See also U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, March 8, 2008.

3330 U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, March 8, 2008.

3331 UNIAP, COMMIT Process, [online] [cited December 7, 2007]; available from http://www.no-trafficking.org/content/COMMIT_Process/commit_background.html. See also U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, March 2, 2005.

3332 UNIAP, About UNIAP, [online] [cited December 12, 2007]; available from http://www.no-trafficking.org/content/About_UNIAP/about_uniap.htm.

3333 Government of Thailand, Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Thailand on Bilateral Cooperation for Eliminating Trafficking in Children and Women and Assisting Victims of Trafficking May 31, 2003; available from http://www.arcppt.org/docs/MOU%20Traffcking%20CAM-TH%20English.pdf. See also Government of Thailand, Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Thailand and the Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic on Cooperation to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, July 13, 2005; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates/96.

3334 UNICEF, UNICEF Supports Initiatives to Tackle Trafficking of Women and Children in Thailand, [online] April 17, 2006 [cited December 7, 2007]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/Thailand_33424.html. See also HumanTrafficking.org, Thailand Combats Human Trafficking on Cambodian Border, [online] June 25, 2006 [cited December 7, 2007]; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates/378.

3335 U.S Embassy – Bangkok, reporting, June 27, 2007.

3336 ILO IPEC, Support for National Action to Combat Child Labor.

3337 ILO-IPEC, Mekong Sub-Regional Project to Combat Trafficking in Children and Women, [online] [cited December 7, 2007]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/index.htm. See also ILO-IPEC Geneva official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, December 12, 2007.

3338 ILO-IPEC Geneva official, E-mail communication, December 12, 2007.

3339 Human Trafficking.org, AUSAID, [online] [cited December 7, 2007]; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/organizations/3.

3340 Microsoft, Public and Private Sectors Band Together to Help in Fight Against Human Trafficking, Press Release, June 2, 2006; available from http://www.no-trafficking.org/content/Press_Rooms/antitrafficking%20announcement%20v4%20(cc).doc.

3341 Human Trafficking.org, UNICEF: Child Protection Project, [online] [cited December 7, 2007]; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/organizations/236.

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