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Thailand Quick To Claim Human Trafficking Improvements

Thursday, July 31, 2014
WASHINGTON: Following several recent national policy announcements of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), there have been a multitude of activities and significant advancements made in addressing international concerns about human trafficking in Thailand.

'''These new programs are a strong step in the direction of eliminating dishonest job brokers, legalising workers who were previously illegal, and empowering workers with legitimate work status that guarantees workplace protections,'' said Songsak Saichuea, Director-General of American and South Pacific Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Building on the momentum from Thailand's substantial progress in addressing human trafficking in 2013, the NCPO reiterated that combating human trafficking will remain a top national priority and has moved quickly to reform the legal migrant worker system as well as hold companies accountable for the well-being of their workers.

''This new approach will continue our nation's on-going commitment to solve the very complicated issues that contribute to human trafficking,'' said Thailand's Ambassador to the United States Vijavat Isarabhakdi.

The NCPO is implementing a migrant worker reform program designed to empower migrant workers with proper identification, legal work status, and workplace protections. Migrant workers are sometimes vulnerable to human traffickers and these new policies are aimed at eliminating those illegal practices and punishing companies, job brokers and individuals who violates the law.

In this regard, One Stop Service (OSS) centers are being opened to register migrant workers in various provinces in Thailand, including the country's 22 coastal provinces in need of migrant workers in the fishery industry.

Recently, 33 such centers have begun operations to facilitate registration of migrant workers and empower them to find safe, quality employment within Thailand.

The first of its kind, these OSS Centers are helping migrant workers register themselves in a timely manner at affordable fees (only $43 US dollars) and with minimal red tape.

With this improved system and database of workers, Thai labor and law enforcement authorities can more effectively monitor the movements of workers and ensure decent working conditions throughout Thailand.

This program represents a giant step forward in tackling the problem of forced labor and human trafficking.

''These initiatives will help Thailand improve our workforce, our economy and expand our international business reach,'' said Ambassador Vijavat.

Under the plan outlined out by the NCPO, illegal workers will be given temporary permits to work in Thailand. Once these workers pass the verification process, they will be allowed to apply for permanent work permits by using their passport.

This initiative, led under the direction of the Ministry of Interior, will bring millions of migrant workers out from the shadows and legitimise their legal status.

This groundbreaking effort is part of the Royal Thai Government's plans to end the activities of human traffickers, including corrupt government officials and police, who extort money from people in neighboring countries in exchange for smuggling them into Thailand and delivering them to places where they have been promised jobs.

Under the new program, government or police officers who fail to carry out their duties or are involved in illegal activities will face swift punishment, which could include both disciplinary and criminal proceedings.

Thailand is also working in close collaboration and with the support of neighboring nations through bilateral Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs). This cooperative plan will allow workers from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia to more easily acquire legal identification paperwork and land needed work in Thailand.

Thailand is also working with partner countries, like the US, and related International Organisations, especially the UN-Country Team (UNCT) in Thailand, to exchange ideas and inputs in this important process.

The newly established Policy Committee on Migrant Workers and Human Trafficking, chaired by General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, the Chief of Defense Forces and Deputy Chairman of the NCPO, is responsible for the implementation of the plan and will work in collaboration with the private sector and international NGOs.

What Phuketwan Says: Little has changed in Thailand's treatment of Rohingya boatpeople from Burma (Myanmar) since the military assumed control on May 22, sources among the refugees and Thai officials tell Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian.

''According to our information, hundreds of Rohingya are still mysteriously arriving by sea in southern Thailand and paying human traffickers to be transferred across the border to Malaysia,'' Khun Chutima said. ''The process of how they reach Thailand from Burma continues to be shrouded in official secrecy.''

Over the past two years, deaths, rapes and beatings have been reported in well-hidden jungle camps run by traffickers along the Thai-Malaysia border. Since the military takeover in Thailand added impetus to trafficking investigations, Immigration officials have continued to discover empty camps.

Traffickers are also now hiding captives in village houses and other buildings, according to one usually-reliable source in Songkhla province. Fewer boats arrive in the monsoon season, between May and October.

Declaration of Interest: Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian face a continuing trial in March over criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges brought by the Royal Thai Navy, citing a 41-word paragraph from a Pulitzer prize-winning Reuters report on the Rohingya boatpeople. The case was mentioned in June in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report, which downgraded Thailand to Tier 3, the lowest level. Reuters and several Thai mainstream outlets that carried the same paragraph have not been charged.

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