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Insufficient action from Thailand on slavery may result in a second year on the lowest tier of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report
Feb 17, 2015

Insufficient action from Thailand on slavery may result in a second year on the lowest tier of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report

By EJF Staff

In a new briefing launched today, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) strongly recommends that Thailand remains on Tier 3 in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to send a clear signal to the Government that further progress and substantive efforts are required to ensure removal from the Tier 3 ranking which places it alongside countries such as North Korea and Iran.

In the briefing, Broken Promises: Why Thailand should stay on Tier 3 in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, EJF shares a selection of reported cases of trafficking, forced and bonded labour on Thai fishing vessels between March 2014 and February 2015.

EJF finds that:

  • Thailand has failed to address the unregulated industry of labour brokers, which perpetuates trafficking and abuse in the fishing sector.
  • Insubstantial progress has been made in identifying victims of trafficking, forced and bonded labour aboard fishing vessels.
  • The Royal Thai Government has failed to enforce existing laws and regulations in an unbiased and rigorous manner and has failed to end extensive corruption and the involvement of state officials in human trafficking.
  • There has been no adoption of a victim-centred approach to protecting those who have escaped or been rescued from modern-day slavery.

Since 2013, EJF’s investigations in Thailand have consistently found that the Thai Government’s anti-trafficking efforts have been characterised by failure to improve victim identification, shockingly inadequate victim protection and support, weak enforcement and endemic corruption.

Since 2014, trafficking victims have reported abuse, even in Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) shelters designated to offer protection to victims. Reports of assault, threats at gunpoint and beatings by shelter staff leading to severe injuries, have been recorded (EJF interviews with trafficking victims and Myanmar government officials, 2014). Corruption still seriously undermines Thailand's efforts to combat trafficking, while Thailand's Prime Minister and other senior Ministers have publicly acknowledged the involvement of state officials in trafficking into the fishing industry.

On 30th January 2015 Mr Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Minister of Thailand’s Foreign Affairs, gave a press conference on Thailand’s own Trafficking in Persons 2015 Country Report. The report summary claims that substantial progress has been made, especially regarding anti-trafficking legislation, inspections of fishing vessels and the registration of migrant workers. The full report has not however been made available or been subject to independent scrutiny.

EJF’s review of the Thai Government’s actions in the last year concludes that the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking have not been met, and EJF strongly recommends that Thailand remains on Tier 3 in the 2015 TIP Report, as a clear signal to the Thai Government that a substantive programme of actions and series of reforms must be implemented.

"The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is a powerful tool to engage governments and industry on the issue of human trafficking. It offers insight into the nature and scope of human trafficking around the world and global anti-trafficking efforts. The report tracks improvement, with countries on Tier 1 still having to display appreciable progress in combating trafficking every year to maintain their place. After four years on the Tier 2 Watch List and one year on Tier 3, global leadership from the US Government and a wealth of evidence and advice from NGOs, the Royal Thai Government is still failing to take the action needed to prevent trafficking and human rights abuses in the fishing industry. Nothing that we have seen or heard in the last year indicates that Thailand has taken meaningful action to address the root causes of trafficking and abuse. The Thai Government must take clear, significant and sustained steps to prevent and suppress human trafficking in the fishing industry.” - Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF

Click here to read the briefing - Broken Promises: Why Thailand should stay on Tier 3 in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Notes to editors

  • The US Department of State’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is expected in June 2015.
  • In 2014, following four consecutive years on the Tier 2 Watch List, according to the rules, Thailand had to be either upgraded to Tier 2 or downgraded to Tier 3, the country could not spend a fifth year on the Tier 2 Watch List. The decision to downgrade Thailand in the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report (June 2014) followed a series of reports and exposés by EJF, other civil society groups and the media documenting the systemic use of modern-day slavery in Thailand’s seafood industry, including child and forced labour, forced detention, extreme violence and murder.
  • It is estimated that as many as 27 million men, women and children are currently victims of human trafficking around the world (US Department of State, TIP report, 2012).
  • According to the US Department of Defense, approximately 600,000 – 800,000 victims are trafficked annually (US Department of Defense, Combating Trafficking in Persons, 2013).
  • Thailand’s seafood industry employs more than 650,000 people (Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand, 2013).
  • To reduce overheads boat operators perpetuate poor working conditions and low wages. This has led to a significant labour shortage - an estimated shortfall of 50,000 people (ILO, Employment Practices and Working Conditions in Thailand’s Fishing Sector, 2013).
  • Thailand is the 3rd largest seafood exporter in the world, with exports valued at $7.0 billion in 2013 (Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014).
  • The EU imported more than $1.15 billion (€835.5 million) worth of seafood from Thailand in 2012 (Eurostat, The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (MARM), 2014).
  • The value of seafood imported by the United States from Thailand exceeded $1.6 billion in 2013 (US National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries Statistics and Economics Division, 2013).
  • Thailand is the 32nd largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $377 billion and a growth rate of 5.5 per cent in 2012. It has one of the lowest unemployment rates globally at 0.5 per cent in 2012 (International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, 2012).
  • Corruption seriously undermines Thailand's efforts to combat trafficking. Thailand's Prime Minister and other senior Ministers have publicly acknowledged the involvement of state officials in trafficking into the fishing industry. Prayuth C. (2015) "Returning Happiness to the Nation" weekly broadcast, 26 January 2015.
  • The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is a UK-based charity working internationally to protect the environment and defend human rights. EJF believes environmental security is a human right. EJF is a charity registered in England and Wales (1088128).
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