T H A I L A N D
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN THAILAND
Thailand is impacted by the trafficking of men, women and children for sexual and labour exploitation. It is a source, transit and destination country. Research suggests that historically, the cultural value placed on the virginity of girls contributed towards commercial sexual exploitation, with many girls and women entering the sex work industry for reasons such as losing their virginity prior to marriage, or having been married and then separated.
Thailand has a long history of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) labour trafficking, particularly in commercial fishing but also the poultry industry, manufacturing, agriculture, domestic work and street begging. Numerous media and NGO reports over the last decade have exposed severe concerns of labour and human rights violations occurring on boats and at ports including killings, beatings and trafficking of migrant fishers, often from Burma, Cambodia and South-East Asia. The US Department of State in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) (1), alongside many NGOs such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) (2), reports instances of trafficking also among Thai nationals, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Russia, North Korea and some African countries, as well as recognize the significant abuse indicative of trafficking experienced by members of ethnic minorities, highland persons and stateless persons.
HRW has found that labour trafficking has persisted amid a culture of abuse where traffickers deploy exploitative and coercive practices such as identity documents and ATM card retention, deceptive recruitment practices and physical violence to entrap victims in forced labour and illegal working conditions. As noted in the US TIP report, despite highly publicized government efforts to regain control over-fishing operations and tackle IUU fishing, lingering corruption and poor implementation and enforcement of the new inspection frameworks continues to undermine anti-trafficking efforts.
Child sex and labour trafficking also continues to be problematic in Thailand, with children from Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia forced or lured into brothels, massage parlours, bars, karaoke lounges, hotels, private residences as well as online exploitation that may involve children being induced to perform sexual acts over the internet and may be blackmailed with sexual images. The pandemic has increased the risk of trafficking for some children from families, often migrants, who lost employment and thus leading to some 177,000 Thai children - mainly boys - engaged in child labour. The US TIP notes that this is causing more children to work long and irregular hours in hazardous conditions and drop out of school, placing more children at higher risk of forced labour, exploitation and commercial sex trafficking.
Despite increased efforts from the government to strengthen laws and regulatory controls, Thailand was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List (second to lowest possible status) on the US TIP program in 2021. There are concerns about inadequate government systems of identification and prosecution in cases of suspected trafficking, moreover corruption and official complicity continue to impede anti-trafficking efforts.
The United States Department of State 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), [Online] Available at: https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/thailand/ [Accessed 10 Nov 2021]
Human Rights Watch (HRW) Hidden Chains Report, Rights Abuses and Forced Labour in Thailand’s Fishing Industry, 23 Jan 2018, [Online] Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/01/23/hidden-chains/rights-abuses-and-forced-labor-thailands-fishing-industry [Access 10 Nov 2021]