Press Statement The Thai government’s determination to suppress human trafficking in sea fisheries urged

On June 2014, the US State Department led by its Secretary, Mr. John Kerry, released the Trafficking in Persons Report 2014(TIP Report) in which Thailand has been downgraded from Tier 2 Watch list to Tier 3 . The Tier 3 lists countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

The report provides a description of the state of human trafficking along with recommendations for Thailand to review and improve its performance and obtain a better tier ranking. In particular, the following issues are emphasized;

1. The advocacy and campaign to prevent human trafficking related to Thailand’s ratification of international protocols including the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime) and the public campaign to raise awareness on the issue and the importance for ending human trafficking.

2. The protection of wellbeing of victims of human trafficking as it has been found that the victims do not receive sufficient welfare protection and legal aid. Some shortcomings and conflicts among officials were identified in the screening process of human trafficking victims as well.  

3. The prosecution of perpetrators, since the State has not yet launched comprehensive and effective legal and policy measures for the prevention and suppression of human trafficking including;

   3.1 A lack of effective law enforcement among justice agencies and those involved with the prevention and the provision of remedies for human trafficking victims 

   3.2 Corruption or bribery among state officials

   3.3 Problems in information and evidence sharing among justice agencies which have resulted in failure or delays in holding the perpetrators accountable indicating an ineffective response to the policy of tackling human trafficking issues.

   3.4 No progress has been made to prosecute  perpetrators who have victimized the Rohingyas. The Royal Thai Navy even proceeded to  file a defamation suit against media that have published the story.  

The findings of the TIP report may have a significant impact on Thailand, particularly on sea fisheries and downstream industry which have been found to employ forced labour as either bonded labour or slave labour.  It has been found that the workers in these industries are forced to work in exploitative environments and are accorded the protection of labour laws. 

As a result, products from these industries exported to markets in USA and certain countries in Europe could be subjected to trade and investment restriction. In addition, aid and assistance from international financial institutions that Thailand has enjoyed may face a cut. These may have an impact on international trade and investments in Thailand.

As a nongovernmental organization which provides legal aid and promotes access to justice amongst migrant workers and human trafficking victims, the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) realizes the importance of the issues and has been collaborating with state agencies and civil society organizations to tackle human trafficking. HRDF and other civil society organizations have proposed and advocated among State and business sectors the adoption of effective policies and measures to solve the problems. 

As Thailand has now been downgraded to the Tier 3 by the US government, and in order to strengthen the systems for addressing the problem of human trafficking, HRDF would like to propose the following recommendations to concerned state agencies and other organizations; 

1. The state must prioritize an effort to tackle human trafficking as a National Agenda in order to mobilize resources from various sectors to tackle the problem. Action plans for the prevention and suppression of human trafficking and the protection of wellbeing of the victims must be laid down comprehensively with participation from civil society organizations and entrepreneurs in businesses, which can potentially be involved with human trafficking in sea fisheries. All efforts should be streamlined and the action plans should be made with clarity to ensure understanding and effective implementation by each of the agencies involved. It should help to overcome personnel and funding scarcity and promote interdisciplinary work to genuinely address the needs of victims and those affected by human trafficking with a view of empowering the interdisciplinary teams at same time. 

2. The state must ensure that workers in sea fishing boats are provided with protection under labour protection laws, such as by registering them as employees, guaranteeing their wages, decent working environment and other benefits as well as access to the compensation fund in case of occupational accidents or health problems. Also, the use of child labour in fisheries industry must be prohibited. 

3. The State and associations related to sea fisheries and downstream industry must collaborate to abolish the employment of illegal workers. An emphasis should be placed on punishing employers and entrepreneurs who break the law and concerned State agencies including Ministry of Labour, Harbor Department, Marine Police and Royal Thai Navy, etc. Close collaboration is needed amongst the concerned agencies and entities for effective suppression of corruption. 

4. The State must set aside funding to support fisheries industry since it has helped in generating huge income to the country. Such support will enable the industry to use modern technologies, minimize labour intensity, and reduce cost to promote their competitiveness in international markets. The captains and technicians in fishing vessels must receive training and obtain licenses as well as undergo ethical control and other empowerment schemes. Their profiles and the profiles of the vessel owners must be made public so as to help in the suppression of crime and human trafficking and to promote sea fisheries. 

5. The enforcement of all legislations must be reviewed to ensure that it can effectively tackle human trafficking including Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act B.E 2551 (2008). Its enforcement must be carried out comprehensively based on the understanding and protection of victims and those affected by human trafficking in different categories. Along with the acceleration of registration of sea fisheries labour, there should an inspection and evaluation system, which involves participation of both state and private sectors to enhance their mutual understanding and collaboration. All implementations must be carried out based on the understanding of the officials and the faithful delivery of their services in order to protect the vulnerable groups and to ensure comprehensive human rights protection. 

6. Collaboration among state agencies, private sector and civil society sector should be promoted along with the empowerment of both state officials and staff members of civil society organizations. The collaboration can be made on campaign and advocacy to raise awareness on anti- human trafficking effort and the provision of legal aid to victims and affected persons through the development of network to monitor and suppress human trafficking.


With respect in human rights and human dignity

Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

24 June 2014


For more information, please contact

Ms. Nattarat Aroonmaharat, Project Coordinator, Anti-Labour trafficking, Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), phone 092 – 6690417  

Mr. Papop Siamhan, Case manager, Anti-Labour trafficking, Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), phone 094 – 5485306