U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Thailand

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. A significant number of Thai women are trafficked to Japan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Europe, and North America for sexual exploitation. Thai laborers working abroad often pay excessive recruitment fees prior to departure, resulting in situations of severe indebtedness which can lead to debt bondage, a form of trafficking in persons. Burmese, Cambodian, and Lao men are primarily trafficked to Thailand for forced labor in the construction and agricultural sectors, particularly the fishing industry, while Burmese, Cambodian, and Lao women and girls are trafficked for factory and domestic work and the sex trade. A significant number of Cambodian children are trafficked to Thailand for the purpose of begging. The majority of trafficking victims from Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) are economic migrants who are subjected to conditions of forced or bonded labor and commercial sexual exploitation in Thailand. Regional economic disparities drive significant illegal migration into Thailand, presenting traffickers with opportunities to move victims into labor or sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking also occurs in Thailand, involving victims from Northern Thailand, especially ethnic hill tribe women and girls who are denied Thai citizenship. The denial of citizenship to ethnic hill tribe people makes them more susceptible to trafficking. Widespread sex tourism in Thailand encourages trafficking for sexual exploitation.

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 Thai Government showed progress in convicting traffickers and providing protection for victims of trafficking, although progress was not seen in efforts to address labor forms of trafficking. Implementation of Thailand's labor export regulations is weak, allowing unscrupulous employment agencies to subject Thai workers to conditions of debt bondage in jobs overseas. Some Thai agricultural and unskilled laborers pay exorbitant fees to work overseas and often face conditions of involuntary servitude in the destination country. Thailand lacks adequate protection for victims of labor trafficking, but a comprehensive draft anti-trafficking law that will criminalize labor forms of trafficking is expected to be approved by the Thai Parliament by the end of 2006. Government action should focus on taking steps to punish acts of forced labor among vulnerable foreign migrant populations in Thailand and to provide greater protection for Thai workers sent abroad by exploitative Thai labor supply companies. Progress in passing and enacting the draft comprehensive anti-trafficking law would bring Thailand into compliance with international standards.


The Royal Thai Government made modest progress in its law enforcement efforts against trafficking over the reporting period. Thailand has an anti-trafficking law (1997), but it applies only to trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation and fails to criminalize forced or bonded labor or trafficking involving men. The 1997 law provides for imprisonment of one to 10 years for trafficking women and seven years-to-life imprisonment for trafficking children. In 2005, the government reported 352 arrests and 74 convictions from cases filed in 2003 and 2004. Sentences handed down for trafficking cases remained light, with an average sentence of three years' imprisonment. The Thai Police reported no arrests or prosecutions of law enforcement officials complicit in trafficking. There was no information available on the prosecution of 18 police officers fired in 2003 for complicity in trafficking.


In 2005, the Thai Government continued to provide impressive protection to select categories of trafficking victims; others, such as male foreign victims of forced or bonded labor, received little or no protection. Government care for victims of sexual exploitation is provided only after the victims are identified by NGO or government social workers. The Thai Government operated 97 shelters throughout the country for abused women and children, six regional shelters exclusively for foreign trafficking victims, and a central shelter outside of Bangkok with capacity for over 500 foreign trafficking victims. Coverage of this network of shelters, however, is uneven as the northernmost shelter in Phitsanulok is too far to provide rapid and adequate victim services to key northern provinces such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Phayao. A $12.5 million fund was established in August 2004 by the Thai prime minister to care for victims of trafficking and to support anti-trafficking projects, but so far only $2.5 million has been scheduled for expenditure.

Thailand's overseas missions continued to provide support to Thai sex trafficking victims who wished to return home and could prove their Thai citizenship, but limited funding is available to assist their repatriation through the Ministry of Social Development and Welfare (MSDW). Ethnic non-Thai victims trafficked from or through Thailand, however, received less Thai Government support. Implementation of a June 2005 Thai Cabinet policy decision to protect and repatriate non-Thai citizens to Thailand, if they can prove prior residency in Thailand, has yet to be completed. During the reporting period, MSDW continued to conduct seminars for government officials on implementation of the government's memorandum of understanding with NGOs on the treatment of sex trafficking victims and the country's national action plan. The government also provided police and consular officials with training on trafficking issues and dealing with victims.

There remain no formal and systematic protections offered to foreign victims of forced or bonded labor in Thailand. Although trafficking of men is not addressed in current Thai law, the Thai police in several cases in the last year referred Burmese men who were trafficking victims to protective care, rather than subject them to arrest and deportation. The Thai Government does not offer legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to a country where they may face hardship or retribution.


The Thai Government sustained its efforts to raise awareness of trafficking in 2005. The Thai police continued its public information campaign, which included the placement of signs and posters at public transportation venues and in residential neighborhoods. The public information campaign also included a hotline for reporting suspected cases. The government continued to support the work of NGOs and international organizations to carry out public awareness campaigns and provide victim support services.


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