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Thailand remains in Tier 2 for human trafficking

The US released the 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report saying the Thai government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period

Boris Sullivan

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Samut Sakhon One Stop Service

The Government of Thailand does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so said US Department of State in its latest report.

The US released the 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report  saying the Thai government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Thailand remained on Tier 2.

These efforts included identifying more victims, sentencing convicted traffickers and complicit officials to significant prison terms, developing several manuals in partnership with civil society to standardize anti-trafficking trainings and policies.

Labor inspectors, for the first time, identified and referred potential victims to multidisciplinary teams, resulting in the identification of labor trafficking victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.

The government prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers and investigated only 43 cases of labor trafficking.

The US REPORT Trafficking in Persons (TIP) 2019

The government restricted the movement and communication of victims residing in government shelters, official complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts, and officials did not consistently identify cases of trafficking, especially labor trafficking.

Thailand had languished in the lowest Tier 3 category in 2014. In 2016, the US upgraded Thailand from Tier 3 to the Tier 2 Watchlist, a category in which countries are adjudged as not fully compliant with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The country was moved to Tier 2 last year according to the Bangkok Post.

Prioritized Recommendations

Improve the capacity of law enforcement to proactively prosecute and convict labor traffickers and identify labor trafficking victims.

• Proactively investigate and prosecute officials allegedly complicit in facilitating trafficking, and convict and punish those found guilty with adequate sentences.

• Ensure government and NGO-run shelters provide victims with adequate trauma-informed care, including legal assistance and psychological care.

• Increase the ability of victims, especially adults, to move freely in and out of shelters and access communication devices.

• Support the development of victim-centric and trauma-informed approaches among judges overseeing trafficking cases.

• Increase collaboration with local civil society organizations in migrant worker assistance centers, post-arrival centers, and government shelters, including in the provision of services to victims.

• Increase efforts to ensure employers provide workers copies of contracts in a language they understand.

• Increase the provision of financial compensation and restitution to victims.

• Increase potential victims’ access to government services before they are formally identified by multidisciplinary teams.

• Consistently staff government hotlines and shelters with interpreters.

• Foster an environment conducive to reporting human trafficking crimes without fear of criminal prosecution, including spurious retributive charges pursued by employers.

• Inspect employment locations in border regions with workers employed under border-employment arrangements for trafficking.

• Enforce regular payment of wages, requirements that employers pay recruitment fees of migrant workers, and the rights of employees to retain possession of their own identity and financial documents.

The Thai government maintained law enforcement efforts

The 2008 anti-trafficking law, as amended, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 400,000 to 1.2 million baht ($12,360-$37,090) for offences involving an adult victim, and six to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 600,000 to 2 million baht ($18,550-$61,820) for those involving a child victim.

These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government reported investigating 304 trafficking cases (302 in 2017), prosecuting 438 suspected traffickers (638 in 2017), and convicting 316 traffickers (466 in 2017) in 2018.

The government reported investigating only 43 cases of forced labor—including six cases of trafficking in the fishing sector—compared to 47 in 2017 and 83 in 2016.

Courts sentenced 58 percent of convicted traffickers to five or more years of imprisonment. The government reported that law enforcement made arrests in a number of major sex and labor trafficking networks.

Thai authorities held bilateral meetings with neighboring countries to facilitate information sharing and evidence gathering in trafficking cases. In addition, law enforcement officials cooperated with foreign counterparts to investigate Thai traffickers abroad and foreign suspects in Thailand; these efforts resulted in the arrests of suspected traffickers in Cambodia, Malaysia, and the United States.

Corruption and official complicity facilitated trafficking and continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts. Some NGOs’ perceptions of high levels of corruption made them reluctant to work with the government or certain agencies in some cases.

Although authorities have prosecuted some boat captains in prior years, observers continued to report a reluctance by some law enforcement officials to investigate boat captains whom they perceived to have connections with politicians. In 2018, the government convicted 16 officials complicit in trafficking crimes (12 in 2017), sentencing them to terms of imprisonment ranging from five to 50 years; 10 of 16 convicted officials were sentenced to more than 15 years’ imprisonment.

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