Labour activists have called on the government to make a renewed effort to tackle the human trafficking problem after the latest US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report for 2021 demoted Thailand from Tier 2 to the lesser Tier 2 Watchlist for the first time in four years.
The report, issued on Thursday, said less effort was seen in combatting the problem, with forced migrant labour among Washington’s main concerns.
Patima Tungpuchayakul, a co-founder of the Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN), said the government has been trying to overcome the problem, but there is still room for improvement in the effort.
One problem involves a lack of interpreters to help determine whether damaged parties are real victims of human trafficking, she said, adding that legally, the screening process must take no more than 24 hours.
In a case involving several victims, more time is needed and police have to ask the court for more time, she said. “Interpreters are the first step in the process of helping the victims. Sometimes, there are no interpreters around. Officials have to seek help from other migrant workers in the area and interpretations are often incomplete. As a result, the essential information needed to proceed with human trafficking cases is lost in translation,” Ms Tungpuchayakul said.
She also said that in major cases, victims were intimidated by traffickers and did not dare to tell the truth.
Even though authorities have been trying to combat the problem they tend to focus on issues that have received attention from foreign countries such as migrant workers trafficked in commercial fishing. They fear the country’s exports will be affected so tend to focus their attention here.
But authorities ignore other groups of migrant workers, such as housemaids and construction workers.
Adisorn Kerdmongkol, a coordinator for the Thai Migration Working Group, said several laws have been amended to deal with human trafficking, though some laws have yet to be revised, causing legal loopholes.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, migrants have not been allowed to enter the country to work under government MoUs, so they have to sneak into the country illegally, putting them at risk of falling victims to traffickers, he said.