Open letter: Recommendations on the implementation concerning anti-trafficking in persons and protection mechanism

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Open letter 

            6 August 2021

Subject Recommendations on the implementation concerning anti-trafficking in persons and protection mechanism  

Dear Chairperson of the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee

CC 1) Prime Minister 

      2) Minister of Social Development and Human Security  

On 2 July 2021, the US State Department has published the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP report 2021) in which Thailand has been downgraded to Tier 2 Watchlist among countries whose governments’ effort to address human trafficking is considered below the standards and therefore are subject to a watch list in terms of human trafficking. The report further reveals that Thailand is still mired with problems concerning trafficking in persons and forced labor in various industries. Meanwhile, law enforcement leaves much to be desire, and corruption and the involvement of government officials have hampered the effort to combat trafficking in persons. There is also a lack of referral process involving the violations of labor rights which may constitute a trafficking in person case. Problems have been found regarding the registration of migrant workers and the victim protection procedure has failed to meet the standards, particularly in terms of the independence of the victims from the government shelters.  

A network of civil society organizations has found that throughout the government’s effort to address trafficking in persons since 2014, Thailand has failed properly developed measures and carried out the prevention and suppression of trafficking in persons. Even though the prevention and suppression of trafficking in persons has been declared a national agenda, the action plans and policy frameworks to address trafficking in persons do not suit the context of trafficking in persons in Thailand. The major reasons attributed to failure of the government’s effort in addressing trafficking in persons including; 

Firstly, the issue concerning the structure of the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee and participation of people affected by the policies and law enforcement. The National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee is composed of ex officio members from various public agencies without the sufficiently diverse representation of stakeholders including those from civil society organizations, experts with specialized knowledge, and people who could be affected by the law enforcement. As a result, the Committee is unable to inclusively and effectively determine policies to address trafficking in persons and it will not lead to solutions to the systemic problems.  

Secondly, an emphasis on the indicators based on the number of prosecutions rather than efficient justice process and protection of victim process. Until now, the government has clearly placed an emphasis on qualitative indicators basing their achievement on the number of cases whereby the arrests have been made against the accused and the indicators concerning the punishment of the perpetrators. Nevertheless, the prosecutions in the past two years do not reveal the real problems of trafficking in persons in Thailand. Moreover, it has been documented those attempts have been made by individuals or people who can influence competent officials to promote “policy cases” simply to boost the number of human trafficking cases in Thailand. Instead, the Thai government should place an importance on efficiency in the legal action and protection of the rights of victims and to ensure an effective referral process of victims as well as to remedy victims who come from various backgrounds in terms of race, religion, and culture. The emphasis should not be placed on the statistics of the cases.  

Thirdly, failure in the migrant workers management measures. The government has failed to determine policies to manage migrant workers in Thailand. It has failed to ensure the reduction of financial burden incurred from the registration of migrant workers. Migrant workers continue to have to rely on agents to help them with the registration and documentation. In addition, a number of migrant workers have been missing from the registration system. Such financial burden and a lack of legal status have made the workers even more vulnerable to exploitation and it can lead them info forced labor or debt bondage.  

Given the above reasons, the network of civil society organizations working to combat trafficking in persons and providing aids for victims of trafficking in persons have these recommendations;  

  1. The government must modify the structure of the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee by increasing representation from civil society organizations, people directly affected by the law enforcement and experts with specialized knowledge on combating trafficking in persons. This should also include representatives from both the Thai and migrant workers, children’s organizations, migrant worker organizations and human rights organizations. The Committee’s representation should strike the balance between members from public agencies and civil society organizations and take into account gender diversity concerning LGBTQI+. 
  2. Stop using the prosecution statistics as a benchmark for the efficient law enforcement. The state should determine policy goals based on the efficiency in terms of the protection of victims and ensuring them have access to remedy.  
  3. Enhance the efficiency of the prosecutions by focusing on capacity building, increasing the expertise, and ensuring the sufficiency of manpower so that the law enforcement can serve the purpose of the law. Furthermore, measures should also be developed to prevent any interference or influence wielded by powerful people who simply target to policy cases.  
  4. The government should develop mechanisms to protect victims of trafficking as well as those who are potential victim by adopting the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and the Reflection Period. An emphasis should be placed on ensuring that potential victims and victims of trafficking shall receive protection and remedy that serve their best interest. It should be ensured that the provision of the government services must not rely on the prosecution and judicial proceeding against the alleged perpetrators. 
  5. In case that victims or potential victims are minors, the Child Protection Act 2003 should apply as a matter of priority and the protection services must be made always in the best interest of the child.  
  6. The government should ensure that migration management policies are inclusive for all vulnerable populations who could become victims of trafficking including migrant workers, refugees, and their dependents. The government measures should consider the right to residence, the right to work, freedom of movement, and the right to establish family and having security in life.  
  7. The government must reduce the expenses relating to the recruitment fees and document fees pertaining registration of migrant workers. The expenses should not be pushed to be responsible by the migrant workers.    

Yours sincerely,

Signatory organizations 

  • Migrant Working Group (MWG)
  • Save the Children Thailand 
  • Human Right and Development Foundation (HRDF)
  • Foundation for AIDS Rights (FAR)

For more information, please contact: 

Mr. Papob Siamhan, Program Director, Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), tel. 094-5485306, e-mail: p.siamhan@gmail.com