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Thailand; United Nations: Special Rapporteur Says More Must Be Done on Human Trafficking

(Aug. 24, 2011) On August 19, 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, said that Thailand must work more effectively against human trafficking. In addition, the country should do more to protect migrant workers, who are vulnerable to exploitation. She also called for an attitude of zero tolerance of corruption. Ezeilo is an independent, unpaid expert who reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. (Thailand Must Fight Mounting Human Trafficking More Effectively, UN Expert Warns, UN NEWS CENTRE (Aug. 22, 2011); also available as Human Trafficking: Thailand Must Show Clear Leadership Against It in the Region and Beyond, Urges UN Expert, UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS [Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights website] (Aug. 22, 2011).)

Speaking at the conclusion of a 12-day visit to the country, Ezeilo said, “Thailand faces significant challenges as a source, transit and destination country” for human trafficking. (UN NEWS CENTRE, supra.) Ezeilo described the growing trend of trafficking for forced labor in agriculture, construction, and fishing, urging the government to cooperate with nearby nations to combat the problem. She also highlighted the problem of trafficking in children within Thailand, stating that migrant, stateless, and refugee young people, as well as those belonging to tribes in the hilly regions of the country, are especially likely to be victimized. (Id.)

Among the steps Ezeilo recommended for Thailand was addressing “weak and fragmented” implementation of the country's 2008 law on human trafficking, which she attributed in part to corruption among low-level law enforcement officials. (Id.; The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, B.E2 551 (2008), Jan. 30, 2008 [in English translation from Thailand's Office of the Attorney General], BALI PROCESS.) In addition, she pointed to the misidentification of victims of trafficking as irregular migrants, which makes those people subject to arrest and deportation or to long periods of detention in shelters. The shelters are “a vehicle for violations of human rights, especially the right to freedom of movement and to earn an income and live a decent life,” she said. (UN NEWS CENTRE, supra.)

Ezeilo recommended that Thailand better train its law enforcement officers, immigration officials, and labor inspectors, in addition to reviewing relevant laws and increasing safe options for migrants. At present, she argued, “[r]oot causes of trafficking, particularly demands for cheap and exploitative labour provided by migrant workers, are not being effectively addressed.” (Id.)