THAILAND: Tier 2

The Government of Thailand does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Thailand remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying more victims, sentencing convicted traffickers and complicit officials to significant prison terms, developing several manuals in partnership with civil society to standardize anti-trafficking trainings and policies. Labor inspectors, for the first time, identified and referred potential victims to multidisciplinary teams, resulting in the identification of labor trafficking victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers and investigated only 43 cases of labor trafficking. The government restricted the movement and communication of victims residing in government shelters, official complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts, and officials did not consistently identify cases of trafficking, especially labor trafficking.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Improve the capacity of law enforcement to proactively prosecute and convict labor traffickers and identify labor trafficking victims. • Proactively investigate and prosecute officials allegedly complicit in facilitating trafficking, and convict and punish those found guilty with adequate sentences. • Ensure government and NGO-run shelters provide victims with adequate trauma-informed care, including legal assistance and psychological care. • Increase the ability of victims, especially adults, to move freely in and out of shelters and access communication devices. • Support the development of victim-centric and trauma-informed approaches among judges overseeing trafficking cases. • Increase collaboration with local civil society organizations in migrant worker assistance centers, post-arrival centers, and government shelters, including in the provision of services to victims. • Increase efforts to ensure employers provide workers copies of contracts in a language they understand. • Increase the provision of financial compensation and restitution to victims. • Increase potential victims’ access to government services before they are formally identified by multidisciplinary teams. • Consistently staff government hotlines and shelters with interpreters. • Foster an environment conducive to reporting human trafficking crimes without fear of criminal prosecution, including spurious retributive charges pursued by employers. • Inspect employment locations in border regions with workers employed under border-employment arrangements for trafficking. • Enforce regular payment of wages, requirements that employers pay recruitment fees of migrant workers, and the rights of employees to retain possession of their own identity and financial documents.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The 2008 anti-trafficking law, as amended, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 400,000 to 1.2 million baht ($12,360-$37,090) for offenses involving an adult victim, and six to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 600,000 to 2 million baht ($18,550-$61,820) for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported investigating 304 trafficking cases (302 in 2017), prosecuting 438 suspected traffickers (638 in 2017), and convicting 316 traffickers (466 in 2017) in 2018. The government reported investigating only 43 cases of forced labor—including six cases of trafficking in the fishing sector—compared to 47 in 2017 and 83 in 2016. Courts sentenced 58 percent of convicted traffickers to five or more years of imprisonment. The government reported that law enforcement made arrests in a number of major sex and labor trafficking networks. Thai authorities held bilateral meetings with neighboring countries to facilitate information sharing and evidence gathering in trafficking cases. In addition, law enforcement officials cooperated with foreign counterparts to investigate Thai traffickers abroad and foreign suspects in Thailand; these efforts resulted in the arrests of suspected traffickers in Cambodia, Malaysia, and the United States.

Corruption and official complicity facilitated trafficking and continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts. Some NGOs’ perceptions of high levels of corruption made them reluctant to work with the government or certain agencies in some cases. Although authorities have prosecuted some boat captains in prior years, observers continued to report a reluctance by some law enforcement officials to investigate boat captains whom they perceived to have connections with politicians. In 2018, the government convicted 16 officials complicit in trafficking crimes (12 in 2017), sentencing them to terms of imprisonment ranging from five to 50 years; 10 of 16 convicted officials were sentenced to more than 15 years’ imprisonment. The Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission referred seven officials to prosecutors, of which the government initiated four prosecutions. The government utilized administrative punishments against some suspected complicit officials, such as suspensions or transfers to new positions, rather than subjecting them to criminal prosecutions; the government expelled seven officials suspected of complicity from government service in 2018 but only reported initiating prosecutions against three. The government continued to investigate 20 officials suspected for their involvement in child sex trafficking in a case initiated during the previous reporting period. The government did not report vigorously investigating or prosecuting immigration officials who facilitated trafficking by accepting bribes at border checkpoints.

In 2018, the anti-money laundering office (AMLO) issued restraint and seizure orders for assets worth more than 509 million baht ($15.73 million) in trafficking cases, compared to 14 million baht ($432,770) in 2017. The government operated specialized anti-trafficking divisions within the Bangkok Criminal Court, office of the attorney general (OAG), and the Royal Thai Police (RTP). The OAG required all prosecutors to expedite the submission of trafficking cases to the Courts of Justice. The Thailand Anti-Trafficking in Persons Task Force (TATIP), which specialized in investigating complex cases and comprised law enforcement, social workers, and NGOs, investigated 29 cases in 2018, resulting in the prosecution of 69 offenders. In addition, the Thai Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (TICAC) investigated 19 cases of internet-facilitated child sex trafficking (18 in 2017). The government allocated 3.6 million baht ($111,280) to TATIP and 11.84 million ($366,000) to TICAC, compared to 9 million baht ($278,210) allocated to TICAC in 2017. During the reporting period, the RTP announced it would no longer accept female cadets into its academy, which may result in a decrease in gender diversity in the police force and negatively affect anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.

Some victims continued to report reluctance to participate in prosecutions due to fears of detention and extended shelter stays, fears of experiencing retaliation from traffickers, and language barriers. In an attempt to increase victims’ willingness to participate as witnesses, Thai courts admitted advance and video testimony as evidence in trials; courts conducted 24 advanced witness hearings in 2018, four of which utilized video conferencing. In one case, the RTP coordinated with Cambodian authorities to bring 15 repatriated Cambodian victims to a Thai border provincial court to provide video testimony. Prosecutors also worked with NGOs to prepare victims to testify and courts allowed NGO lawyers to serve as co-plaintiffs in some cases to legally support victims. The government provided approximately 2.4 million baht ($74,190) for witness protection services for 15 witnesses in trafficking cases in 2018, compared to 4.3 million baht ($132,920) for 52 witnesses in 2017.

The government worked with foreign law enforcement officials, international organizations, and NGOs to develop several manuals and guidelines to institutionalize and standardize trainings related to human trafficking. This included handbooks for police and prosecutors to guide the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. In addition, the government issued guidelines on the prosecution of individuals who violate laws protecting sea fishers, which provided labor inspectors with standard operating procedures for filing suspected cases of labor trafficking to police. The government conducted numerous training sessions, seminars, and workshops for police, prosecutors, and judges; trainings focused on anti-trafficking laws, improving efficiency of investigations, prosecution of labor trafficking cases, and victim identification. The Office of the Judiciary also organized a seminar for interpreters working on trafficking cases in the courts. However, first responders, prosecutors, and judges sometimes did not properly interpret or apply trafficking laws, especially for labor trafficking. Prosecutors frequently looked for evidence of physical force in labor trafficking cases. While interagency coordination was effective in major cities, in some provinces observers reported ineffective communication among agencies and civil society.

PROTECTION

The government increased efforts to protect victims. The government identified 631 victims in 2018 (455 in 2017), 401 of whom the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) reported assisting in government shelters (360 in 2017). Those identified and assisted by MSDHS included 152 Thai and 249 foreign victims, 186 victims of sex trafficking and 66 of labor trafficking; it was unclear what form of exploitation the remaining 149 victims faced. Authorities assisted in repatriating 201 foreign victims exploited in Thailand (111 in 2017) and facilitated the return of 103 Thais exploited abroad (45 in 2017) by providing funding for travel expenses, legal assistance, job placement, and other reintegration services. NGOs reported the government did not consistently provide repatriation assistance to victims who declined to participate in law enforcement investigations. In collaboration with a foreign government, the government published a handbook for social workers to streamline the reintegration process for Thai victims. MSDHS reported it assigned social workers to maintain contact with victims for at least one year after their reintegration. The government trained law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, interpreters, and MSDHS staff on victim identification and interview techniques and trauma informed care, sometimes in cooperation with NGOs. MSDHS coordinated with TATIP to train multidisciplinary team (MDT) participants as victim specialists to improve victim identification and evidence collection. Advocates reported a need for the government to increase training of front-line police to better identify potential victims. In addition, some judges lacked sufficient understanding of trauma-informed care, which resulted in harmful treatment of victims during court proceedings. The government opened two new child advocacy centers, which served as child-friendly spaces where law enforcement, NGOs, and social workers could conduct forensic interviews of child trafficking victims; this brought the total number of centers to five. NGOs reported a decline in the prevalence of forced child begging following the passage of the 2016 Beggar Control Act, which provided for health and social services to beggars, including trafficking victims. The government identified and assisted 334 beggars but reported identifying only two as victims of trafficking; NGOs reported a lack of government efforts to assist children selling items on the street who were vulnerable to exploitation.

Officials did not consistently screen cases of labor violations for potential indicators of trafficking and sometimes encouraged workers to remedy their situation through their employer. MDTs, which comprised government agencies and NGOs, utilized standard screening guidelines to formally identify victims and refer them to services. The government could only provide temporary assistance to potential victims for up to eight days, and formal identification by MDTs was necessary for victims to obtain a legal right to services. Consequently, before they were physically or psychologically prepared to undergo the MDT identification process, victims frequently sought temporary care from NGOs, rather than government agencies. Observers reported MDTs were sometimes reluctant to make identifications unless a case was likely to result in a successful prosecution. Implementation of identification procedures by MDTs continued to be inconsistent, especially outside major cities. Labor inspectors screened migrant workers for trafficking during inspections and were required to refer all potential trafficking victims to MDTs for formal identification and service referral. Observers reported the capacity of some provincial labor inspectors to identify potential victims improved. For the first time, MOL referred suspected cases of labor trafficking to MDTs, resulting in the identification of six labor trafficking victims in 2018. Nonetheless, officials did not adequately identify victims of trafficking and anecdotal reports suggested some provincial government officials were hesitant to identify them due to fears of public shame that trafficking occurred in their provinces. Labor inspectors could be held personally liable for claims of abuse of power under Thai law, which may have discouraged them from reporting suspected exploitation. Some officials failed to recognize trafficking cases that did not involve physical force or overt signs of coercion; officials did not routinely identify victims who initially consented to travel to Thailand or consented to work in the industry in which they were later exploited. The government increased efforts to screen migrants for trafficking, including those held in immigration detention centers; these efforts resulted in the identification of 150 victims.

The government continued to refer victims to government-operated shelters where they had access to counseling, legal assistance, medical care, civil compensation, financial aid, witness protection, education or vocational trainings, and employment. MSDHS operated 76 short-stay shelters and nine long-term regional trafficking shelters, including four dedicated to adult male victims and families, four for female victims, and one for male child victims. The government distributed a new handbook in seven languages informing victims of their legal rights under the trafficking law, including access to services. The government only permitted foreign victims who held a valid visa or work permit at the time of their identification to stay outside government shelters during legal proceedings against their traffickers. Undocumented foreign victims of trafficking were required to remain in shelters while the government processed applications for permits to stay and work in Thailand. MSDHS trafficking shelters did not allow victims—including adults—to leave or carry personal communication devices without permission. Only victims who received permission to work outside shelters could leave the shelter on a regular basis for work. The government permitted 65 victims to work outside shelters—a decrease from 149 in 2017—and was less likely to grant female victims this right to work. While the government made efforts to reduce the length of prosecutions and thereby decrease the amount of time victims had to stay in shelters, NGOs reported the required shelter stays deterred victims from cooperating with law enforcement. The government registered three NGO shelters during the reporting period that were able to provide services to victims under government authority, although it did not provide these shelters with additional funding to support their operations. Thai law permitted foreign trafficking victims and witnesses to stay and work in Thailand for up to two years upon the completion of legal proceedings against their traffickers; however, the government did not report if any victims received this benefit during the reporting period.

MSDHS employed 251 interpreters, but government shelters often lacked sufficient numbers of interpreters, which weakened their ability to provide adequate services to victims, particularly psychological care. MSDHS introduced a handbook for interpreters on assisting trafficking victims. NGOs reported difficulty accessing victims they had supported once they entered MSDHS shelters; this, combined with insufficient communication from shelter staff, discouraged NGOs from further cooperating with the government or referring victims to authorities. Authorities did not consistently identify male child victims, which resulted in some being sent to immigration detention facilities or treated as law violators, rather than being offered victim services. MSDHS shelters did not provide specialized care to boys and LGBTI victims; in addition, authorities required transgender victims to stay in shelters based on their sex assigned at birth. NGOs also reported MSDHS shelters lacked culturally appropriate services for victims originating from outside Southeast Asia; however, the government allowed a group of African victims to reside in one of the NGO-registered shelters that provided culturally appropriate care during the reporting period. MSDHS approved a daily allowance of 200 baht ($6.18) to victims working inside government shelters; an hourly compensation of 100 baht ($3.09) was paid to victims who received interpretation skills training and served as interpreters during recreational or vocational training activities in the shelters. However, observers reported inadequate options for vocational training and work offered in shelters.

In 2018, the government provided 6.15 million baht ($190,110) to trafficking victims from its anti-trafficking fund, compared to 5.6 million baht ($173,110) in 2017. Thai law legally obligated prosecutors to file restitution claims when a victim expressed intention to make a claim. The Human Trafficking Criminal Procedures Act allowed judges to award compensation or restitution to victims, including in the absence of a victim request for these funds. In 2018, prosecutors filed restitution claims on behalf of 116 victims for 77.56 million baht ($2.4 million); however, the government did not report how many victims successfully obtained restitution. MSDHS introduced the use of victim impact statements in courts to assist in obtaining compensation and in 2018 six victims filed statements. Legal advocates and NGOs reported traffickers rarely paid compensation and restitution orders, thus discouraging other victims from cooperating in prosecutions. MSDHS operated a unit under its anti-trafficking division to provide victims legal assistance and file compensation claims and developed guidelines to enhance the efficacy of filing such claims. In addition, MSDHS signed MOUs with relevant government agencies to improve the execution of court orders for offenders to pay compensation and restitution.

The law protected victims from prosecution for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit; however, flaws in the government’s implementation of victim identification procedures increased the risk of authorities penalizing victims, including for prostitution and immigration violations. In addition, the government’s criminal defamation laws allowed companies to pursue criminal charges against potential victims and advocates during the reporting period, and the government did not report investigating company owners for subjecting these workers to exploitation. Employers reportedly convinced Thai law enforcement to bring criminal charges against exploited workers for theft when workers attempted to leave or change jobs. Such practices deterred victims and advocates from reporting abuses to authorities. The government amended the anti-trafficking law in 2015 to provide protection to whistleblowers but did not report applying this new provision.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Prime Minister oversaw the government’s anti-trafficking efforts through the Supervisory Policy Committee on Addressing Trafficking in Persons and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing. The Prime Minister’s office appointed two new senior advisory positions to supervise the government’s anti-trafficking activities and the government continued to monitor its progress to combat trafficking through data collection and annual reports to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. It conducted campaigns through newspapers, television, radio, social media, billboards, and handouts to raise public awareness throughout the country. MSDHS and MOL operated hotlines with operators fluent in 12 foreign languages. In 2018, government hotlines received 161 calls related to possible trafficking cases, including at least 18 involving forced labor (172 calls in 2017 and 269 calls in 2016), leading to the prosecution of 63 cases (73 cases in 2017). The government employed 84 language coordinators (74 in 2017) and 69 interpreters (74 in 2017) in 2018. Nonetheless, NGOs reported MSDHS did not consistently staff hotlines with interpreters.

Thai law permitted recruitment agencies to charge recruitment fees to Thais seeking overseas employment and excessive fees incurred by some workers made them vulnerable to debt bondage or other exploitative conditions. Through government-to-government formal migration channels, the government assisted 28,820 Thais to obtain employment abroad in 2018, including by providing job placement assistance. In addition, 14 provincial employment offices provided training, including on trafficking risks, to 4,624 Thai workers prior to their overseas employment. MOL officers screened the travel documents of departing Thai workers at border checkpoints and denied their departure if they deemed the documentation suspicious. In 2018, the government inspected 364 employment agencies that recruited Thai workers and found unlawful practices in seven, resulting in license suspensions and monetary seizures. It initiated prosecutions against 416 illegal brokers (287 in 2017) under the Employment and Job-Seeker Protection Act. The government continued to grant citizenship to stateless persons in 2018.

Weaknesses in Thailand’s labor laws preventing migrant workers from forming labor unions may have contributed to exploitation. The lack of a requirement that employment contracts be written in both Thai and workers’ languages, lack of clear guidance to measure work and rest hours for workers aboard fishing vessels, and difficulty for workers to change employers heightened the risk of trafficking. In addition, NGOs and international organizations widely reported the government did not adequately enforce minimum wage laws and lacked legislation mandating minimum wages in sectors with high employment of migrant workers, such as seasonal agriculture. A UN report found the median monthly wage for seasonal agricultural workers was 6,000 baht ($185), which was below the minimum wage in Thailand, which ranged from 8,008-8,580 baht ($248-$265) per month.

The Royal Ordinance on Management of Migrant Workers, which took effect in March 2018, required employers to provide workers a copy of their employment contracts and to cover costs (excluding personal expenses such as passports, medical checks, and work permits) associated with bringing migrant workers to Thailand and back to their home countries when employment ends, such as recruitment fees and transportation costs. The decree prohibited employers from deducting more than 10 percent of workers’ monthly salaries for personal expenses and the retention of travel or other personal documents; the law prescribed penalties of fines ranging from 10,000-100,000 baht ($309-$3,090) and up to six months’ imprisonment for employers who violated these rules. However, NGOs reported the regulations on recruitment fees were poorly defined and enforced, and recruitment agencies and brokers still required workers to pay recruitment fees and transportation costs. The government did not report investigating illegal salary deductions. In addition, employers rarely provided workers a contract to keep or in their language.

To facilitate the ability of undocumented migrant workers to register with the government, twelve “one stop” service centers operated by the governments of Burma, Cambodia, and Laos in Thailand conducted nationality verification for migrant workers, which allowed them to obtain identity documents without leaving Thailand. The government coordinated with these service centers to provide heath checks, collect biometric and personal data, and issue work permits to 1,187,803 workers in 2018. The complicated nature of government registration and, in many cases, low levels of literacy resulted in reliance on brokers who often overcharged workers to obtain documents, thereby increasing their vulnerability to debt bondage. Observers reported government policies contributed to the exploitation of migrants employed in Thai border regions, including within the 10 developing special economic zones. For example, the government allowed migrants to obtain 30-day and 90-day border passes to work in non-seasonal agricultural or manufacturing jobs but such temporary working arrangements did not provide workers access to social protections. NGOs reported employers increasingly encouraged workers to obtain these border passes.

While the number of migrant workers entering Thailand through bilateral MOUs continued to increase, high costs, difficulties in obtaining identity documents in home countries, and administrative barriers to change employers continued to impede greater usage of this mechanism. Provincial labor offices required workers recruited under MOUs to present many documents that workers often could not provide without brokers’ assistance in order to approve job changes. By law, MOU employers could recover costs associated with recruiting a migrant worker from the new employer when a worker requested to change jobs before the end of their employment contract; however, some employers charged these employees 20,000 baht ($618) to obtain their documents, making workers susceptible to debt bondage. The government did not report investigating employers who illegally charged fees to such migrant workers. The government opened two new post-arrival and reintegration centers (five total) that assisted migrant workers who entered Thailand through the MOU process by providing information on labor rights, Thai culture, employment contracts, trafficking awareness, and complaint mechanisms; in 2018, 442,736 migrant workers received assistance at these centers. Nonetheless, observers reported labor officials interviewed workers in the presence of their employers and brokers at post-arrival centers, which could deter workers from reporting exploitation. MOL also worked with NGOs to provide services at 10 migrant worker assistance centers; however, observers reported minimal efforts by these centers to increase outreach and build trust with local civil society organizations tended to deter NGOs from referring exploited workers to the centers. The government worked with NGO-operated centers located near fishing markets to provide skills training, health screenings, and other resources to raise awareness of workers’ rights. In 2018, the government inspected 67 migrant worker recruitment agencies (compared to 97 in 2017) and found four operating in violation of the law.

The Ministerial Regulation on Labor Protection for Sea Fishers, which took effect in April 2018, required Thai vessels operating outside Thai waters to provide messaging data to workers for communicating with government agencies and personal contacts. It also required employers to pay salaries at least once per month through electronic deposits and to share catch profits. While the electronic payment system increased the ability of labor inspectors to verify wage payments, observers reported concerns that some workers were unable to access their funds due to a lack of ATMs near some ports, insufficient training on how to use the system, and the withholding of workers’ ATM cards and PINs by vessel owners, captains, or brokers.

The Command Center for Combatting Illegal Fishing (CCCIF), led by the Royal Thai Navy, operated 32 port-in port-out (PIPO) centers and 19 additional forward inspection points, which performed inspections to verify whether fishing vessels were operating legally. CCCIF implemented a system to inspect vessels based on risk assessments and reported it inspected all vessels placed in the “high-risk” category, as well as a percentage of medium- and low-risk vessels. Labor inspectors working in PIPO teams verified crew lists using biometric data and worker interviews. The government required fishing vessels operating in Thai waters to return to ports every 30 days and strictly regulated long-haul Thai-flagged vessels from operating in international waters. PIPO centers conducted 78,623 inspections in 2018 and found 511 vessels operating in violation of the law. However, the government did not report whether labor inspections resulted in the identification of any trafficking victims. Civil society organizations noted inconsistent interview practices, inspections conducted without interpreters, and inspection practices that enabled owners, captains, or brokers to determine which workers reported exploitation to inspectors, thereby deterring workers from revealing information due to fears of retaliation. Civil society and government officials expressed concerns that varying levels of enforcement at PIPO centers encouraged some boat captains to choose ports with weaker inspections and enforcement.

Officials inspected 7,497 adult entertainment businesses in 2018, leading to the prosecution of seven trafficking cases and the five-year suspension of licenses of 97 businesses for unspecified violations of law. In 2018, the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare conducted 1,906 inspections at high-risk workplaces, including sugarcane farms, garment factories, shrimp and fish processing facilities, pig farms, and poultry farms, finding 388 workplaces operating in violation of labor laws. In 2018, the government conducted 259 labor inspections at on-land seafood processing workplaces and found 88 cases of labor law violations. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. To discourage child sex tourism, the government coordinated with foreign governments to deny entry to known sex offenders, and produced and displayed a video discouraging child sex tourism in Thai airports and on Thai airline flights. The Ministry of Tourism organized a seminar with government officials, businesses, tourism professionals, and others to raise awareness of trafficking in tourism industries.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Thailand, and traffickers exploit Thai victims abroad. Traffickers subject Thai nationals 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. Labor and sex traffickers exploit women, men, LGBTI individuals, and children from Thailand, other Southeast Asian countries, Sri Lanka, Russia, Uzbekistan, and some African countries in Thailand. Traffickers use Thailand as a transit country for victims from China, North Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, and Burma whom traffickers subject to sex trafficking and forced labor in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Russia, South Korea, the United States, and countries in Western Europe. Children from Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia are victims of sex trafficking in brothels, massage parlors, bars, karaoke lounges, hotels, and private residences. Traffickers increasingly induce young Thai girls and boys to perform sex acts through videos and photos on the internet, sometimes by blackmailing victims with explicit images. Children in orphanages are vulnerable to trafficking. Some parents or brokers force children from Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma to sell flowers, beg, or work in domestic service in urban areas. As recently as 2015, there were reports of separatist groups in southern Thailand recruiting and using children to commit acts of arson or serve as scouts. Unconfirmed reports indicated insurgent groups may have trained a small number of Cambodian children in schools in southern Thailand to serve as combatants; initial statements by Thai authorities, however, denied any evidence of insurgent links.

Labor traffickers exploit migrant workers in commercial fishing and related industries, the poultry industry, manufacturing, agriculture, domestic work, and street begging. Traffickers exploit some migrants in labor trafficking often through debt-based coercion and fraudulent promises of well-paid employment; brokers and other recruitment agencies impose excessive fees on workers before they arrive in Thailand. Thai-based brokers and employers administer additional fees after arrival—in some cases causing debt bondage. Some migrants are kidnapped by traffickers and held for ransom, and some are subsequently subjected to sexual servitude or forced labor. Labor traffickers subject Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian men and boys to forced labor on Thai and foreign-owned fishing boats. Some are paid little or irregularly, incur debts from brokers and employers, work as much as 18 to 20 hours per day for seven days a week, and without adequate food, water or medical supplies. Some boat captains threaten, beat, and drug fishermen to work longer hours. 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. Some government officials are directly complicit in trafficking crimes, including through accepting bribes or loans from business owners and brothels that exploit victims. Corrupt immigration officials facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes from brokers and smugglers along Thai borders. Credible reports indicate some corrupt officials protect brothels, other commercial sex venues, and fishing vessel owners from raids and inspections and collude with traffickers. Some government officials profit from bribes and direct involvement in extortion from and exploitation of migrants.

2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Thailand
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