Thailand

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2 Watch List

THAILAND: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Thailand does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by seizing more than 784 million baht ($21.91 million) from traffickers, reporting more investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, convicting a business owner complicit in forced labor in the fishing sector, and extending the amount of time foreign trafficking victims and witnesses may be permitted to stay and work in Thailand. The government continued to increase dedicated anti-trafficking resources and approved a policy to allow hiring foreign nationals as interpreters in order to increase the number of available interpreters for labor inspections and interviews. The government implemented new guidelines to improve the victim identification process used by multidisciplinary teams and provided numerous anti-trafficking trainings for government officials. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. It did not aggressively prosecute and convict officials complicit in trafficking crimes, and official complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts. Officials identified fewer victims compared to the previous reporting period, and although forced labor investigations slightly increased, the number of labor trafficking investigations was low compared to the scale of the problem. Although the government continued to increase the number of inspection centers at fishing ports, inspections resulted in relatively few identified victims and criminal investigations. Therefore, Thailand remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THAILAND

Proactively investigate and prosecute officials allegedly complicit in trafficking, and convict and punish those found guilty with dissuasive sentences; improve efforts to proactively screen for and identify victims among vulnerable populations, including migrants, fishermen, stateless persons, children, and refugees; prosecute and convict traffickers through proactive law enforcement employing a victim-centered approach; increase training for law enforcement and first responders who are not assigned to anti-trafficking units and to recognize cases of forced labor where physical coercion is absent; continue to train and increase resources for multidisciplinary teams and labor inspectors to improve the quality of fishing vessel inspections that result in the identification of victims and criminal investigations; increase incentives for victims to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, including by providing foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship, continuing to increase opportunities for victims to work, providing witness protection services, and providing restitution and compensation to victims from forfeiture or other funds; fully implement new guidelines to improve the consistency for victim identification and interview procedures; regulate and investigate labor recruitment practices for migrant workers and investigate indicators of trafficking; foster greater collaboration with civil society in investigating and reporting human trafficking crimes; increase and improve anti-trafficking awareness efforts, including those directed at employers and clients of commercial sex, such as sex tourists; and improve migrant workers’ rights, legal status, and labor migration policies to minimize the risk of trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The 2008 anti-trafficking law as amended in 2016 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties up to 12 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of 1.2 million baht ($33,550), and up to 20 years imprisonment for trafficking a child; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The amendment also expanded the definition of exploitation to include “practices similar to slavery” and the definition of forced labor to include debt bondage. The Beggar Control Act, which went into effect in July 2016, imposed new penalties of up to three years imprisonment for recruiting, employing, supporting, encouraging, or seeking benefits from beggars, including additional penalties for official complicity in forced begging.

The government reported investigating 333 trafficking cases (317 in 2015), prosecuting 301 cases (251 in 2015) involving 600 suspects (690 in 2015), and convicting 268 traffickers (205 in 2015) in 2016. Despite the prevalence of forced labor in Thailand, the government reported only 83 investigations (72 in 2015) and 62 prosecutions involving suspected cases of forced labor. The government did not report disaggregated numbers of convictions it obtained for forced labor and sex trafficking. Fifty-seven percent (64 percent in 2015) of convicted traffickers received prison sentences greater than five years, and 82 percent (84 percent in 2015) received sentences of more than three years imprisonment. The anti-money laundering office seized over 784 million baht ($21.91 million) in nine trafficking cases in 2016, compared to 210 million baht ($5.87 million) seized in 2015. These funds were not known to be used for the restitution of trafficking victims or dedicated to other protection measures. In addition, civil courts ordered the forfeiture of 87 million baht ($2.43 million) in six cases. The government investigated ship owners, captains, and brokers for labor trafficking in the fishing industry in 43 cases (39 in 2015); five ship owners, 36 captains, and 26 others were arrested as a result of these investigations, and prosecutions were initiated in 37 cases. In one case, a business owner and five others were convicted on trafficking charges and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for their involvement in the forced labor of minors on fishing trawlers; four others were acquitted. This represents the first conviction of a business owner complicit in forced labor in the fishing sector in Thailand. Of the 23 investigations initiated in 2014 related to the trafficking on the Indonesian islands of Ambon and Benjina, the government initiated prosecutions in 21 cases in 2016 and received convictions in four cases; three cases were acquitted.

Law enforcement officials cooperated with foreign counterparts to investigate Thai traffickers and victims abroad, and foreign nationals involved in trafficking in Thailand; this resulted in the arrest of at least 41 alleged traffickers in 2016. The government-funded trainings focused on anti-trafficking laws for 799 police, prosecutors, and other law enforcement officials. In an effort to improve the quality of trafficking prosecutions across the country, authorities appointed additional prosecutors and established a sub-unit within the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) trafficking unit to provide guidance and mentoring for provincial law enforcement, prosecutors and other court officials. The government required all judicial branch officials to report all trafficking-related cases into an integrated case database, which became operational in 2016. An international training center partially funded by the government trained more than 2,000 Thai police officers. In addition, more than 300 judges and prosecutors were trained on how to prosecute and adjudicate trafficking cases. However, in some cases first responders, prosecutors, and judges did not adequately enforce and interpret trafficking laws, especially for forced labor. Notably, NGOs closely monitored developments of a case in Ranong province involving physical and verbal abuses in the fishing sector that could set precedent for the interpretation of human trafficking in future cases.

This reporting period represented the first full year in which the full complement of specialized anti-trafficking divisions within the Bangkok Criminal Court, OAG, and the Royal Thai Police (RTP) were fully functioning. The Human Trafficking Criminal Procedures Act, which took effect in May 2016, introduced an inquisitorial system in trafficking cases, allowing courts to proactively investigate cases and more easily order restitution for victims. In addition, the act allows courts to use pre-trial testimony and video conferences in witness cross-examination and strengthens bail criteria to prevent trafficking suspects from fleeing. During the reporting period, courts cleared the backlog of cases submitted in 2014 and reduced the backlog from 2015 to six cases. Some victims were reluctant to participate in prosecutions due to fear of detention, an inadequate understanding of the Thai legal process, language barriers, and preferring repatriation over lengthy stays in shelters, which may cause them to forego livelihood opportunities. The government continued to increase resources and leverage legislation enacted in 2015, which criminalized the possession and distribution of child pornography, to build cases against those involved in internet-facilitated child sex trafficking. Officers assigned to the Thai Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (TICAC) investigated 64 allegations of child exploitation, including four human trafficking cases. TICAC partnered with and assigned police officers to Thailand’s two child advocacy centers (CACs), and signed an agreement with a U.S.-based NGO in March 2017, giving police direct access to information regarding cases of child sexual exploitation.

The government made some efforts to address official complicity, but corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts. In 2016, the government filed criminal charges against 10 officials, as compared to 34 officials in 2015. It investigated and charged 10 police officers allegedly complicit in sex trafficking crimes; authorities dismissed one officer from the government and the other nine remained under investigation by the public sector anti-corruption commission at the end of the reporting period. From January to March 2017, the government investigated an additional six police officers and one local politician allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes. The government also initiated an investigation involving high ranking officials and police officers allegedly complicit in exploiting children in sex trafficking in one province. During the reporting period, of the 34 officials initially investigated in 2014 or 2015, two were convicted on human trafficking charges and one was convicted for procurement, and sentenced to 36 years imprisonment, 16 years imprisonment with a fine of 360,000 baht ($10,060), and two years and six months imprisonment with a fine of 75,000 baht ($2,100), respectively. The charges against one official were dismissed and 29 remained under investigation or consideration for prosecution at the end of the reporting period. Trial proceedings were ongoing for a case initiated in 2015 involving 22 officials, including a senior military officer, and several other police, military, and local officials associated with trafficking of Rohingya migrants; civil courts ordered the seizure of 11.1 million baht ($310,320) in assets from the military officer and a local politician.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified 824 trafficking victims in 2016, compared with 982 victims in 2015. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) reported providing assistance to 561 victims at 76 temporary and nine long-term government shelters in 2016 (compared with 471 in 2015), including 207 Thai victims (126 in 2015) and 360 foreign victims (345 in 2015); 317 were victims of forced labor and 244 were victims of sex trafficking. Thailand ratified the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children (ACTIP), of which the government was a co-author, in July 2016, and signed the ASEAN Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons in November 2016. Government agencies participating in multidisciplinary teams who deployed to screen for indications of trafficking among vulnerable populations used a standard questionnaire to guide interviews with potential victims. Some NGOs asserted that the government improved the consistency of its use of the standard questionnaire; however, at least one local NGO noted implementation of identification procedures may not have been consistent outside large cities. To address varying levels of effectiveness among multidisciplinary teams, the government implemented new guidelines in December 2016 on improving the efficiency of the victim identification process. A local NGO noted a short authorized period for victim identification limited proactive screening and may have led to unidentified victims except in the most obvious cases of trafficking. Police working under specialized anti-trafficking units were often successful in identifying trafficking victims; however, in at least one province, first responders who lacked adequate training on human trafficking placed unidentified victims in immigration detention centers (IDCs). Some officials failed to recognize non-physical indicators of trafficking. Labor inspectors could be held personally liable for claims of abuse of power, which limited their ability or willingness to perform their work. In addition to trainings for law enforcement, the government trained more than 2,500 multidisciplinary team members, labor inspectors, social workers, and interpreters on victim identification and referral systems.

The government continued to screen for trafficking indicators among fishermen returning to Thailand and on fishing vessels in Thai waters, as well as among workers in seafood processing facilities. NGO observers noted both at-port and at-sea inspections conducted by multidisciplinary teams of the Command Center for Combating Illegal Fishing (CCCIF) resulted in few identified trafficking victims. Observers said that during the reporting period, interviews were conducted in front of ship captains, or ship captains acted as interpreters, which hindered workers from speaking freely and may have led to unidentified trafficking victims. Others reported the inspection process often only consisted of a review of documents, and in some cases, inspectors reportedly did not board vessels or speak to crew members. Following recommendations from NGOs and international organizations, the government reported efforts to expand inspections to interview workers away from employers, utilize standard interview forms, and automate the documentation process to increase available resources for interviews. An international organization stated workers often did not feel comfortable sharing information on possible exploitation or abuse to authorities until undergoing multiple interviews, and one organization reported interviewing trafficking victims exploited on fishing vessels who had never been identified by the government as trafficking victims during CCCIF inspections.

To address the shortage and quality of interpreters available for certain languages, which limited some government efforts to identify and protect victims, the prime minister ordered that, as of November 2016, non-Thai nationals can be employed as interpreters for labor inspections and interviews. The government registered and trained 115 additional interpreters in 2016 and hired 11 at the beginning of 2017, bringing the total number of available interpreters to 265; MSDHS provided refresher training for 63 existing interpreters. The government also initiated the hiring of two additional interpreters for each of the 32 port-in-port-out inspection centers; 49 had been hired by the end of the reporting period. The government continued to refer victims to the 76 short-stay shelters or the nine long-term regional trafficking shelters operated by MSDHS, where they had access to counseling, legal assistance, medical care, civil compensation, financial aid, witness protection, education or vocational trainings, and employment. In partnership with several NGOs, the government opened a second CAC in Pattaya, which serves as a child-friendly space in which law enforcement, NGOs and social workers can conduct forensic interviews of child trafficking victims with a victim-centered approach. The Beggar Control Act provides health and social services to beggars, some of whom may be trafficking victims. The government and civil society groups partnered to open a service center for fishermen to provide workers information on their rights, skills training, health screenings, and other resources. In 2016, the government disbursed 5.8 million baht ($162,150) from its anti-trafficking fund to 648 victims (472 in 2015). Seventy-three trafficking victims received civil restitution from traffickers and under labor laws in the amount of 5.45 million baht ($152,360); and 23 trafficking victims received restitution from the government for criminal injuries totaling 455,000 baht ($12,720). In complicated cases, MSDHS hired human rights lawyers to serve as victim advocates, participating in interviews and coordinating and preparing witnesses for trial. Following a significant influx of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants in 2014 and 2015 and the discovery of largely abandoned smuggling/trafficking camps and mass graves on the Thai-Malaysian border, 202 Rohingya remained in Thailand at the end of the reporting period, including at least 49 trafficking victims. During the reporting period, in coordination with UNHCR and IOM, 69 Rohingya trafficking victims were resettled in third countries and 15 Bangladeshis were repatriated. Other potential unidentified victims, including some Rohingya men and children, and those whose nationalities could not be determined, continued to be housed at IDCs, sometimes for periods longer than a year, despite IDCs being designated for stays up to only 15 days.

NGOs reported concerns over the lack of appropriate options for foreign children whose families were complicit in their trafficking or whose identity could not be established. Boys were more likely to be sent to juvenile detention facilities than to receive specialized services. Although past reports indicated judicial officials did not always follow procedures to ensure the safety of witnesses, some local NGOs said during the reporting period, judicial officials closely followed procedures in cases involving children to prevent any further victimization. The government increased efforts to ensure adult trafficking victims were able to travel, work, and reside outside shelters as provided by Thailand’s anti-trafficking law. In 2016, 35 percent of victims in government shelters worked outside the shelter, compared to 10 percent in 2015. Of the 561 victims in government shelters, 196 were employed either inside or outside shelters (compared to 47 in 2015) during the course of legal proceedings. Others were reportedly either in the process of being formally repatriated, in the recovery period, chose not to work, or were too young to work. At least 14 male Rohingya victims were able to work outside shelters during the reporting period; however, many other male victims whose nationalities could not be verified, including among Rohingya, were not given permission to leave the shelters. The government approved a daily allowance of 300 baht ($8.39) —which is the minimum wage in most parts of Thailand—to victims residing in MSDHS shelters who wish to work but are unable to do so due to security concerns or are awaiting an employment opportunity, as well as some victims not residing in MSDHS shelters who intend to work. The government did not provide legal alternatives to victims who faced retribution or hardship upon return to their home countries. Authorities assisted in repatriating 323 victims (401 in 2015), including 80 Thais exploited abroad and 243 foreign victims exploited in Thailand, through a government-to-government process if they were unwilling to testify or following the conclusion of legal proceedings. The government facilitated the return of 30 Thai victims from the Indonesian islands of Ambon and Benjina in 2016 and assisted them to claim wages or civil compensation from employers. The government extended the amount of time foreign trafficking victims and witnesses may be permitted to stay and work in Thailand. During the previous reporting period the government increased the limit from six months to one year, allowed foreign victims to renew work permits after the completion of their case, streamlined the process of obtaining works permits from 45 days to 10 days, and stated all witnesses of human trafficking cases would be automatically entitled to the witness protection program; 335 victims and witnesses in trafficking cases have benefitted from these measures since they were enacted. In December 2016 a cabinet resolution then extended the stay permit for trafficking victims and witnesses to two years and allowed victims and witness to work in all sectors, whereas they were previously limited to working in labor-intensive sectors and domestic work. Since the government fully implemented the regulation in January 2017, it granted two victims this right. All victims and witnesses who entered MSDHS shelters fell under the previous resolution approved in March 2016, but will be eligible to request annual one-year extensions to their temporary residency status.

The law protects victims from prosecution for acts committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking; however, flaws in the government’s implementation of victim identification procedures and its efforts to arrest and soft deport immigration violators increased victims’ risk of being re-victimized and treated as criminals. A local NGO reported the government arrested child victims of forced labor in the fishing industry, detained them in youth correctional facilities, and prosecuted them with immigration, prostitution, and illegal fishing charges, and prosecuted women from Europe and Africa for immigration violations after failing to identify them as trafficking victims. Advocates expressed concerns the conviction of a labor rights activist on criminal defamation charges and violations of the Computer Crimes Act had the effect of silencing other human rights advocates and preventing research of forced labor in supply chains. This development also inhibited a climate conducive to discovering and reporting trafficking crimes, identifying and protecting victims, and apprehending additional traffickers. The government amended the anti-trafficking law in 2015 to provide protection to whistleblowers but did not report whether this new provision has been applied.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. It increased funding for migrant labor management and anti-trafficking efforts from 2.08 billion baht ($58.15 million) in fiscal year 2016 to 2.58 billion baht ($72.1 million) in fiscal year 2017. The government allocated an additional 625.75 million baht ($17.49 million) in fiscal year 2017 to the CCCIF, which has some responsibilities for addressing forced labor in the fishing and seafood processing sectors. It conducted campaigns through newspapers, television, radio, social media, and billboards, and handouts to raise public awareness of human trafficking throughout the country. Given the low literacy rate and diversity of languages among at-risk persons, however, this information remained inaccessible to many. MSDHS and the Ministry of Labor (MOL) operated hotlines with operators fluent in foreign languages; the MSDHS hotline received 269 calls related to possible trafficking cases in 2016. MSDHS increased the number of available hotline interpreters to 43 in 2016, and MOL maintained 15 interpreters for its hotlines in 2016. In an effort to prevent trafficking of children, both CACs provided social service interventions, including acute care needs, to children vulnerable to exploitation, and childcare was offered at a service center for fishermen.

A royal ordinance increasing regulations for employing migrant workers in Thailand went into force in August 2016 (and the implementing regulations in November 2016), further defining mechanisms for migrant workers to enter Thailand either directly though employers or through recruitment agencies. Recruitment agencies are now required to apply for a license from the government and pay a deposit fee that will be applied toward a worker repatriation fund; unregistered agencies are liable to three years imprisonment and/or fines up to 60,000 baht ($1,680). The rules also mandate employers to cover all costs, including recruitment fees and transportation, associated with bringing migrant workers to Thailand. From November 2016 to March 2017, 59 agencies from Cambodia, Laos, and Burma were licensed and 2,697 employers requested permits under the new rules. The government established three post-arrival centers to assist migrant workers entering Thailand through formal MOU channels and 10 migrant workers assistance centers; these centers assisted 105,647 workers from August 2016 to February 2017 by providing resources in multiple languages, including for trafficking awareness, and assisting the migrant workers to register with the government. The government registered and offered work permits (“pink cards”) to 45,441 undocumented migrant workers in the fishing sector from November 2015 to July 2016 and to 143,528 undocumented migrant workers in the seafood processing sector from November 2015 to August 2016 in an attempt to regularize their legal status. However, observers reported that some multidisciplinary teams and labor inspectors have assumed a worker with a pink card could not be a trafficking victim or be working under exploitive situations, leading to the misidentification of victims. In 2016, the government found unlawful practices in nine of the 202 labor recruitment agencies that facilitate overseas and domestic employment. For these cases, the government suspended the licenses of three agencies and filed criminal charges against six agencies. It further initiated prosecutions against 108 illegal brokers under the Employment and Job-Seeker Protection Act in 91 cases involving 187 Thai laborers.

Critical gaps in Thailand’s labor laws preventing migrant workers from forming labor unions may contribute to exploitation. In addition, NGOs and international organizations widely reported that the government did not adequately enforce the application of minimum wages in sectors with high employment of migrant workers. The government continued efforts to reduce the costs for Thais in overseas guest worker programs, but excessive fees incurred by some Thai workers to obtain employment abroad, which the government was ineffective in regulating, made them vulnerable to debt bondage or exploitative conditions. While the number of migrant workers entering Thailand through formal government-to-government migration systems increased, most migrant workers did not use this mechanism due to high costs tied to corruption on both sides of the border, lack of information, lengthy processing times, and difficulties in changing employers. However, the government reduced the processing time for migrant workers to enter through these systems in 2016 and reported providing some flexibility for workers to change employers before the end of their employment contract.

The Department of Labor Protection and Welfare (DPLW) conducted 1,346 labor inspections at high-risk workplaces, including sugarcane farms, garment factories, shrimp and fish processing facilities, pig farms, and poultry farms in 2016, finding 136 violations, taking three legal actions, and collecting fines in the amount of 45,000 baht ($1,260). The CCCIF established four additional port-in-port-out centers in 2016 (32 in total) plus 19 additional forward inspection points, which perform inspections at port, at sea, and on land to ensure that fishing vessels are operating legally and workers have contracts, work permits, and identity documents. In 2016 the multidisciplinary teams of the CCCIF inspected 415 on-land seafood processing workplaces and found 66 cases of illegal employment from October to November 2016. In addition, the CCCIF found 35 seafood processing factories violated employment laws or the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries Act. The government subsequently prosecuted these factories and issued administrative orders to suspended business operations for 10-30 days. The CCCIF also found 64 factories in violation of labor protection laws and issued orders to correct the violations and pay unpaid wages. The government did not report how many of these cases and violations had direct ties to trafficking. Civil society and government officials expressed concerns that due to varying levels of enforcement at port-in-port-out centers, some boat captains choose ports where inspections and enforcement were weaker. In order to thwart interference with technical monitoring, the government passed new fisheries regulations in February 2017, prohibiting captains from moving or turning off vessel monitoring systems equipment. The new law imposed penalties (ranging depending on the size of the boat) for those who violate these regulations.

The government continued to grant citizenship to stateless persons in 2016 and approved two regulations to provide legal residency to non-Thai children born in Thailand and to grant citizenship to stateless or abandoned children. In an effort to prevent the crossing of both traffickers and vulnerable populations at risk of exploitation, the government strengthened border control enforcement. To prevent child sex tourism, the government reported it denied entry to 2,054 known foreign sex offenders, an increase from 511 in 2015. The Ministry of Tourism organized six trainings for 417 local government officials, tourism sector workers, students, youth, and civil society organizations on prevention of child sexual exploitation in the tourism industry. The government took steps to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts, including a public awareness campaign to inform tourists and Thai citizens of the severe criminal punishment for those found to be involved in child sexual exploitation. The Ministry of the Interior inspected “high risk” adult entertainment venues and ordered 238 to cease business activity for five years. The government made efforts to decrease demand for forced labor, including by publicizing investigations and prosecutions of prominent forced labor cases in the export-oriented commercial fishing and seafood processing sectors. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Thailand is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some of Thailand’s 65 million people and some of the estimated four million migrant workers in Thailand are forced, coerced, or defrauded into labor or sex trafficking. Labor trafficking victims are exploited in commercial fishing and related industries, the poultry industry, factories, agriculture, and domestic work, or forced into street begging. Thailand’s commercial sex industry remains vast, increasing vulnerabilities for sex trafficking. Women, men, boys, and girls from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Russia, Uzbekistan, and African countries are subjected to labor and sex trafficking in Thailand. One local NGO reported an increase in male sex trafficking victims from Africa in Thailand, including some who were reportedly exploited by foreign criminal organizations. Thailand is also a transit country for victims from China, North Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, and Burma subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Russia, South Korea, the United States, and countries in Western Europe.

Thai nationals have been subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in Thailand and in countries in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Members of ethnic minorities, highland persons, and stateless persons in Thailand have experienced instances of abuse indicative of trafficking. Children from Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia are victims of sex trafficking in brothels, massage parlors, bars, karaoke lounges, hotels, and private residences. Some parents or brokers force children from Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma to sell flowers, beg, or work in domestic service in urban areas. Separatist groups in southern Thailand continue to recruit and use children to commit acts of arson or serve as scouts. Many foreign trafficking victims migrate willingly to Thailand seeking employment, through irregular channels without identity or travel documents. Instances of human trafficking, smuggling, abduction, and extortion of migrants occur as migrants move between Thailand and neighboring countries. Traffickers, including some registered and unregistered labor brokers of Thai and foreign nationalities, bring foreign victims into Thailand through both formal migration and smuggling routes and serve as intermediaries between job-seekers and employers. Some brokers charge substantial fees or collaborate with corrupt law enforcement officials, and some Thai and migrant workers incur significant debts to obtain employment and are subjected to debt bondage. There are reports that some brokers and employers continue to confiscate identity documents. Thai men and women who migrate overseas also rely on registered and unregistered labor brokers to facilitate acquisition of low-skilled contract work or agricultural labor and are sometimes subjected to conditions of forced labor and debt bondage. Trafficking in the fishing industry remains a significant concern. Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian men and boys are subject to forced labor on Thai and foreign-owned fishing boats. Some remain at sea for several years, are paid very little or irregularly, work as much as 18 to 20 hours per day for seven days a week, or are reportedly threatened, physically beaten, drugged to work longer, and even killed for becoming ill, attempting to escape, or disobeying orders. Some trafficking victims in the fishing sector had difficulty returning home due to isolated workplaces, unpaid wages, and the lack of legitimate identity documents or safe means to travel.

Corruption continues to undermine anti-trafficking efforts. Reports persist that some government officials are directly complicit in trafficking crimes, including through accepting bribes from business owners and brothels where victims are exploited. Migrant workers, especially those who are undocumented, are fearful of reporting trafficking crimes and cooperating with authorities due to lack of awareness of their rights and minimal protections both in Thailand and in countries of origin and a general fear of authority that may stem from their country of origin or their experience in Thailand. Some government officials reportedly profit from bribes and direct involvement in the extortion of migrants and their sale to brokers. Some of these migrants are kidnapped and held for ransom, which increases their vulnerability to sexual servitude, forced labor, or debt bondage. Credible reports indicate some corrupt officials protect brothels and other commercial sex venues from raids and inspections and collude with traffickers.