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Friday, August 19, 2011

UN envoy: Thailand fails to enforce laws against human trafficking

Bangkok - Corruption and poor law enforcement has undermined Thailand's efforts to crack down on human trafficking, which remains rampant, a UN envoy said Friday.

'Corruption, coupled with the infamous brokerage system, has diluted the efficacy of government policies and programmes to combat human trafficking,' UN special rapporteur on human trafficking Joy Ezeilo said after concluding a 12-day assessment tour of the country.

Thailand, which has about 2 million registered migrant workers and an estimated 1 million unregistered ones, has long been a hub for human trafficking for the sex industry and forced labour.

'There is widespread occurrence of sexual exploitation, including child prostitution, pornography and sex tourism,' Ezeilo said.

She added that she found evidence of increased trafficking of forced labour in agriculture, construction and the fishing industry.

'In particular, trafficking for forced labour is notoriously common in the fishery sector, where men are often trafficked onto fishing boats,' Ezeilo said.

The special rapporteur would present her final report on human trafficking in Thailand to the United Nations in June.

Despite past efforts to register its migrant labour force, pass laws that increase penalties on traffickers and provide better services for victims, Thailand continues to get poor grades for tackling the crime.

The US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report placed Thailand in its Tier 2 category, which indicates it does not fully comply with laws on preventing human trafficking but are making significant efforts to enter Tier One, which indicates full compliance. Thai officials said they believe the country should be in Tier One.

'We don't think that we deserve it because we've been doing quite a lot in the field,' Thai Foreign Ministry Information Department head Vijavat Isarabhakdi said.

Thailand passed an Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2008, and has established teams in every province to cope with human trafficking.

'I think implementation is where the challenge is,' Ezeilo said. 'Now what I am challenging the government to do is more investigations to ensure that the bad eggs in the police and those abetting and aiding human trafficking are punished.' According to non-governmental organizations, police are always on the receiving end of a well-organized brokerage system that preys on both documented and undocumented workers seeking work in Thailand from its neighbours Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

The UN rapporteur was in Thailand at the invitation of the Thai government.

'We welcome all her observations and comments, and we are determined to do what we can to address the things that are still lacking,' Vijavat said.

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