Thailand must do more to effectively combat the rising rate in human trafficking and protect migrant workers who are increasingly vulnerable to forced and exploitative labour, a United Nations expert has said, warning that deep-rooted corruption is impeding the battle.
“Thailand faces significant challenges as a source, transit and destination country,” the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, said in Bangkok at the end of a 12-day mission to the country on 19 August, calling on the Government to promote zero tolerance to corruption.
“The trend of trafficking for forced labour is growing in scale in the agricultural, construction and fishing industries,” she added, urging the Government to cooperate with neighbouring countries more effectively in preventing and combating trafficking in persons.
Ms. Ezeilo, who works in an independent, unpaid capacity and reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, also found that “internal trafficking in children is rampant,” particularly highlighting the vulnerability of migrant, stateless and refugee children, including those belonging to hill tribes, to trafficking and exploitation.
While commending the enactment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2008 in line with relevant international standards, she warned that the implementation and enforcement of the law remains “weak and fragmented,” often hampered by the deep-rooted corruption, especially among low-cadre law enforcement officers at provincial and local levels.
“Root causes of trafficking, particularly demands for cheap and exploitative labour provided by migrant workers, are not being effectively addressed,” Ms. Ezeilo said.
She voiced concerns at the frequent misidentification of trafficked persons as irregular migrants subject to arrest, detention and deportation, as well as long stays at shelters, turning the shelters into “detention centres and a vehicle for violations of human rights, especially the right to freedom of movement and to earn an income and live a decent life.”
The Government should scale up capacity building trainings for all actors, especially law enforcement and immigration officials and labour inspectors. As a prevention measure, she called on the Government to review its labour and immigration laws and increase safe migration options to eliminate the vulnerabilities of migrants to trafficking.