Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Army Chief General Udomdej Sitabutr both vowed last week to maintain the fight against human trafficking and said that they are confident that Thailand will receive a higher ranking in next year’s Trafficking in Persons report because the Kingdom has been taking concerted actions to eradicate the problem.
The statements by the Prime Minister and the Army chief came as prosecutors began indicting 72 suspects for alleged involvement in a human trafficking ring that preyed on migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar, including Rohingya Muslims, called the world’s most persecuted minority by the United Nations. Among those indicted were an Army general, high-ranking police officers, local politicians and bureaucrats, along with other members of the criminal syndicate.
In addition, the Cabinet last week approved establishment of a special court solely devoted to expediting and trying human trafficking cases. The court will open on August 10. Human rights groups, including U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, welcomed the move, while calling for even more vigorous law enforcement efforts against traffickers.
“We are confident that we can solve this problem,’’ Prime Minister Prayut said after receiving the news that Thailand remained at Tier 3 in the United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 that was released during the last week of July.
He urged Thai citizens to not be overly concerned with the ranking because the government has been taking serious steps to fight trafficking.
Speaking to reporters on an inspection trip to the Deep South, Army Chief Udomdej Sitabutr said that security forces would continue to follow the government’s strict anti-human trafficking rules. He added that he is confident that Thailand will improve its rating in the next round of evaluations, as the responsible agencies are doing their best to address the issue.
Officials at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok told reporters that the U.S. is aware of the efforts Thailand has been making, and that the report reflects only the early stages of the Thai fight against trafficking. The assessment period for the latest report ended in March, while the recent breakthroughs against trafficking syndicates were made after that deadline.
Prime Minister Prayut said the fight against trafficking will also have environmental benefits, as many trafficked laborers end up on fishing vessels. The government has been cracking down on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and as a result thousands of ships have not left port. Environmentalists have said that the waters in the region have been overfished and fewer trawlers should be allowed to operate.
Last week, the Thai authorities, with the help of their counterparts in Indonesia, repatriated 69 fishing crewmembers who had been stranded in Ambon in Indonesia after the vessels abandoned them. About half of them had been trafficked into the fishing industry and subjected to forced labor, according to Thai officials.
Security forces also raided and freed nine young women from Laos who had been trafficked into bars in the border province of Nong Khai. The District Chief and several local police officers were transferred and are under investigation.
Police also arrested two Malaysian men and two Thai women for using Facebook to lure Thai women to Malaysia by promising them good-paying legitimate jobs, only to subject them to sexual slavery.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org
Thailand Focus August 3rd, 2015