65.8% of the estimated 35.8 million known slaves in the word today exists in the Asia Pacific region in all its forms, including forced labour, trafficking for sexual exploitation, and forced marriage.
In our region.
It has been reported by the Global Slavery Index that Thailand is a destination country for significant numbers of labour migrants from neighbouring Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar.
Thailand may have as many as three million migrant workers engaged in dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs.
Men, women and children have been subjected to forced labour and sexual exploitation in industries including, the sex industry, forced begging, domestic work, fishing, manufacturing, and agricultural industries.
In October 2013, the Thai Government made positive progress by ratifying a key international convention on modern slavery, the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol.
In 2013, of the 674 human trafficking cases uncovered mo Thailand, 520 involved sexual exploitation and 80 involved labour exploitation.
This week, the Thai Government has announced that Thailand is cracking down on human trafficking in the fisheries industry under a 180 day international protocol.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Prawit Wongsuwan announced that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, dubbed pirate fishing, was on the watch list and Thai authorities have an 180 day deadline to suppress it.
This is partly the result of the international pressure that Thailand has felt.
The US regulated Trafficking in Persons Report has been monitoring Thailand for it’s trafficking record for 10 years now, and downgraded Thailand to it’s lowest Tier just last year.
Thailand has a shame based culture, and as such, the Thai authorities have recently felt led to do something about the overwhelming problem of trafficking of persons in their country, as a result of this international shame and pressure.
Thailand has no welfare system. You will find many beggars and homeless on the streets.
Many homeless and beggars are also enslaved and abused through trafficking means.
The Thai Government is trying to crack down on this by registering the DNA records of the homeless and beggars, starting in Bangkok. There are many problems with this approach.
Firstly, it is inhumane to force someone to give you their DNA, particularly if they are not subject to arrest or investigation under a court order.
Secondly, the homeless and beggars live a transient lifestyle, and may not know themselves where they might sleep the following night. Hod does taking their DNA help the authorities track them?
Thirdly, this is totally missing the point – recording the DNA of a homeless person will not deal with the systemic needs of either the homeless person’s immediate needs of shelter, food, education, employment, but it also does not confront the lack of focus the government is placing on social services provided to their community as a whole at a minimum.
The trafficking of person in, out of, and across Thailand is often a complex and layered issue.
As a relatively wealthy country in the GMS, Thailand appeals to residents of neighbouring countries who wish to improve their lifestyles and are willing to relocate.
However, employment brokers on both sides of the border—even through the legal immigration process—can knowingly or unwittingly place migrants in the hands of exploitative employers.
Within Thailand, discriminated ethnic minorities, particularly in the north, are not always granted citizenship, and can be exposed to exploitation as they have fewer education opportunities, have limited freedom of movement without approval from authorities and are often forced to work in informal sectors.
Although various minority ethnic groups often require protection as they remain vulnerable, the government’s refusal to recognise Rohingyans, an ethnic group from Myanmar vulnerable to labour exploitation, can be seen as indicative of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.
As a free, democratic developed nation in this region, Australia has the responsibility to ensure that we are part of the solution, and not the problem of creating a demand for trafficked persons.
Your consumer choices can make a difference.
Make sure that the products you buy are free of child or labour exploitation and are Fair Trade.
Be part of the problem, not the solution.