The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) welcomes the U.S. State Department’s decision to downgrade Thailand to Tier 3 in the 2014 Global Trafficking in Persons Report. Thailand has clearly demonstrated it is not in compliance with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, particularly with regard to its treatment of migrant workers.
“Today’s decision should be a clear message to the Thai Government that it needs to get serious about its significant trafficking problem,” said Abby Mills, ILRF’s campaigns director. “For far too long, the Thai Government has turned a blind eye to egregious exploitation of migrant workers to provide cheap labor for its export industries. They must realize that exploitation has a price.”
The report concluded that, “Overall anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remained insufficient compared with the size of the problem in Thailand, and corruption at all levels hampered the success of these efforts. Despite frequent media and NGO reports documenting instances of forced labor and debt bondage among foreign migrants in Thailand’s commercial sectors—including the fishing industry—the government demonstrated few efforts to address these trafficking crimes. It systematically failed to investigate, prosecute, and convict ship owners and captains for extracting forced labor from migrant workers, or officials who may be complicit in these crimes; the government convicted two brokers for facilitating forced labor on fishing vessels. The government did not make sufficient efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among foreign migrants, who remained at risk of punishment for immigration violations.”
There are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand. The majority of them, 80 percent, came from Burma and work in the most dangerous, dirty jobs, including manufacturing, seafood harvesting and processing, and domestic work.
To reduce the risk of trafficking among migrant workers, Thailand must act to allow migrant workers to better protect themselves against exploitive employers. Specifically, it must amend the Labor Relations Act of 1975 to allow non-Thai nationals to organize labor unions and bargain collectively for better conditions, and ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98, on the rights of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, respectively. Additionally, it must address gaps in enforcement by cracking down on officials complicit in human trafficking, ratifying the new protocol to Convention 29 on Forced Labor and bringing its laws into compliance to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes.
Contact: Abby Mills, International Labor Rights Forum, abby [at] ilrf.org
Office: (202) 347-4100, ext. 113, Cell: (913) 620-5063