BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Thailand must empower victims of trafficking and forced labour to complain and must crack down on corrupt officials if it wants to tackle its human trafficking problem, activists and food industry executives say.
Thailand is scrambling to clean up its act after the US State Department named it in June as one of the world’s worst centres for human trafficking, saying it was a source, destination and transit country for forced labour.
The State Department said most victims of trafficking in Thailand were from neighbouring countries and were forced or defrauded into labour, with tens of thousands exploited in the commercial sex trade, on fishing boats or as domestic servants.
As it prepares to submit a report on 2014 to the State Department by March, Thailand has announced a slew of measures including steep fines for offenders and a budget to hire 700 anti-corruption staff to investigate cases.
In interviews with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, rights activists, Thai food industry association leaders and executives of the world’s largest seafood companies – some of which have been accused of exploiting trafficked and forced labour – said serious law enforcement was key.
“The law enforcement system is broken and corrupt. The people responsible for enforcing the law and ensuring security often are the people who are complicit in the abuses,” said Andy Hall, a migrant rights researcher and activist.
“It’s not like it’s a secret. It’s not like it’s difficult to investigate and punish people involved… There needs to be a push to stop this kind of behaviour. There needs to be a crackdown.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai reiterated on Monday a government vow to go after perpetrators of human trafficking “no matter what uniform they’re wearing”.