Reports from the US State Department suggest that the kingdom must do more to tackle corruption which assists the massive human trafficking rackets which place migrant workforces in industries across Thailand and not just tackle cases of human smuggling. The US State Department appears to be also seeking stronger protections, better treatment and facilities for those detained by authorities in the course of arrests by police agencies.
Police, on Thursday last, moved in to arrest a 29-year old woman from Myanmar and a 24-year old Thai man for sex trafficking in Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi. The arrests came just 24 hours after the United States downgraded Thailand in its annual report on the Trafficking of Persons for 2021. The move sparked a statement from Thai authorities in which they expressed disappointment and also took issue with the lack of independent standards linked with the US administration’s annual determinations.
Police in Kanchanaburi on Thursday arrested two sex traffickers in the centre of the province on foot of arrest warrants issued in June last year.
The pair, a Myanmar woman identified as a mamasan and named as 29-year-old Mallyada or Je Fon, without a surname, was named on warrants issued by the Criminal Court on June 5th 2020 while her 24-year-old Thai partner Wanchalerm Thuan-Ann was arrested on a warrant issued ten days later on June 15th 2020.
Pair charged with supplying young people to a prostitution network in Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi
The pair are charged with being involved with supplying young people into the sex trade who are aged between 15 and 18 years of age.
It is understood the man and the woman are linked to a prostitution network which supplied prostitutes to customers at hotels and other establishments in both Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi.
Investigation by police in May 2020
An investigation by Provincial Police in May last year linked Mr Wanchalerm to prostitution activities including procuring, seducing and escorting young people to rendezvous with customers to engage in prostitution, a crime even though the young people took part in the activity voluntarily.
Similar charges were laid against the 29-year-old woman from Myanmar who was part of the same network.
Thailand downgraded to Tier 2 status by US State Department in its annual report for 2021
The arrests came just hours after Thailand was downgraded by the US State Department in its annual ‘Trafficking in Persons Report for 2021’ from Tier 2 status to Tier 2 watchlist.
In previous years, Thailand has been listed also at Tier 3 but the current government has worked assiduously in an effort to improve the country’s rankings.
It is understood the reason for this year’s downgrade is linked with the treatment of victims of human trafficking including the broader problem of those imported into Thailand on labour contracts as well as those involved being ferried across the kingdom’s borders to supply the country’s large prostitution industry.
Source of supply, destination point and transit zone for human trafficking through and beyond Asia
Thailand is known to be a country which is a source of supply of trafficking victims, particularly for the international sex trade which extends to Australia, Europe and the United States as well as the Middle East and Asia.
It is also a destination for young women from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to supply the demands from the domestic sex industry not only in Bangkok but throughout the kingdom’s provinces in small towns and population centres.
US wants basic minimum standards and an increased focus on trafficking linked with forced labour
It is understood the US State Department is actively seeking to have Thai officials and police agencies better trained in how to handle victims of trafficking when they are detained.
This includes the conditions where victims of both sex trafficking and forced labour are held with concern that Thai authorities are not meeting the minimum standards being set by US officials.
There is also concern that Thai authorities are conflating the smuggling of labour into the country with human trafficking with calls by the United States also to stiffen up efforts to root out corrupt officials involved in the undetected supply of forced or bonded labour and have them prosecuted.
Thai response this week to the US report expressed its disappointment but also questioned the nature and basis of the annual State Department’s tiered list
In response to this week’s report from the United States, Thai authorities expressed their disappointment and took issue with the process itself.
Officials also made the point that the standards pursued by the United States were arbitrary and were certainly not part of an international standard of best practice.
The decision comes as the new US administration has continued its tough trade policy with China and indeed deepened it by seeking a global alliance on the issue while it is driven by its agenda to take a stronger and more principled standard on human rights issues.
Bangkok touts improvements in work conditions for some migrants in the Thai labour force
Officials in Bangkok pointed to advances being made in Thailand in relation to the rights and environment for migrant workers albeit in the fisheries industry and other measures designed to have the kingdom’s foreign migrant workforce regularised including the provision of basic services and supports.
During the week, a top business leader within the property development industry in Bangkok acknowledged that his industry employs a large proportion of the estimated 1.1 million migrant workers who work in Thailand on a legal basis.
In a statement, the government highlighted its efforts to speed up prosecution of suspects found to be engaged in human trafficking and pointed out that 90% of criminal cases were finally adjudicated upon within 1 year of charges being brought with 67% of those charged receiving sentences of imprisonment in excess of 5 years.
Kingdom expresses its commitment to human rights and strengthening humanitarian principles
The government also pointed to its ongoing work with civil society organisations and NGOs to provide support and care to victims of human trafficking linked with the prostitution industry including trauma therapy.
One of the recommendations from the US State Department is that more freedom of movement should be afforded to these victims of sex trafficking while detained including the provision of more trained therapists.
The Thai government has again committed to working with all bodies both within and without Thailand to uphold human dignity and strengthen human rights and humanitarian principles across all aspects of law enforcement and government programmes.