Facts about Human Trafficking in Thailand

Characterized by breathtaking beaches, delicious food and stunning temples, Thailand is often called the “Land of Smiles.” As the number one tourist destination in Southeast Asia, it is an extremely popular place for millions of people to visit every year. Unfortunately, with convenient routes that funnel women and children in and out of the country, Thailand has also become a popular destination for human traffickers. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Thailand.

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Thailand

  1. Human trafficking by boat is common – First up in this list of facts about human trafficking in Thailand is the method of transportation. The fishing industry is a major asset to Thailand’s economy, so many ships go out to sea to fish. These boats sometimes do not come back for up to three years at a time. This makes it nearly impossible for authorities to monitor the activity of boats. Thus, many traffickers prefer to travel through the seas, despite the risks it may pose on the trafficked victims.
  2. Thailand’s geographical location makes it particularly vulnerable to traffickers – Land routes from neighboring countries into Thailand are not very well secured and corruption is prevalent. This makes it much easier for human traffickers to smuggle people into the country.
  3. Minorities and migrants are high-risk for being trafficked – Among those at the greatest risk for being trafficked in Thailand are foreign migrants, ethnic minorities and stateless persons. They may experience various abuses including the withholding of identity and work documents and debt bondage. They could even be subject to illegal salary deductions. Language barriers and low socioeconomic status further contribute to the vulnerability of these populations.
  4. There is no one “type” of trafficking offender – Profiles of traffickers vary considerably. They include both males and females, Thai and non-Thai nationals. They can be from organized networks with the ability to produce or buy fake documents and avoid immigration requirements. Additionally, traffickers can act individually, seizing opportunities to profit from coercing vulnerable persons into situations of exploitation.
  5. There are various forms of trafficking networks – Trafficking networks can be well-structured and work across borders through the use of brokers. However, most trafficking cases are facilitated by individual and local level networks of friends, family members and former victims that often begin with voluntary migration.
  6. Most victims of human trafficking in Thailand are, in fact, of Thai nationality – The majority of trafficking victims identified in Thailand are Thai nationals, trafficked both domestically and internationally. Migrants from neighboring countries make up a large portion of identified trafficked persons in Thailand. However, many more victims from neighboring countries are not identified. These victims often willingly migrate from their home countries in search of better opportunities. Some of their home countries include China, Vietnam, Russia, Uzbekistan and Fiji.
  7. Victims are often trafficked into Thailand through established migration routes – These victims come from neighboring states with significantly lower levels of socioeconomic development. Facilitated by long and porous borders, irregular migration is a common trend in meeting the labor demands of low-skilled employment sectors.
  8. Trafficking in Thailand is a $12 billion industry – This makes it a bigger cash earner than the country’s drug trade, according to the International Labor Organization.
  9. More than 900 victims of human trafficking have been rescued in 2019 – According to official statistics released by the Thai anti-trafficking department, since the beginning of 2019, the police have rescued 974 victims of human trafficking. Most of the victims were from Myanmar.
  10. The hotel industry has taken initiative in combating this issue – A French multinational hotel group set up an employee training program to identify and address sex tourism in 2001. Additionally, Airbnb works with the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign. which provides education about human trafficking. Airbnb also works with No Traffick Ahead, a coalition for combating human trafficking.

Efforts to Eliminate Human Trafficking in Thailand

These facts about human trafficking in Thailand reflect the severity of this problem on a global level. The Thai government has pledged to continue fighting the human trafficking epidemic in their country. In the last year, it partnered with airlines and charities to warn visitors against involvement in trafficking. Subsequently, they urged them to spot and report potential cases.

UNICEF has been particularly active in calling attention to child exploitation and in addressing its root causes. This organization provides economic support to families so that their children will not be at risk of sexual exploitation; it improves access to education and is a strong advocate for children’s rights.

Progress in reducing the human trafficking trade has been made in recent years. However, to make a widespread impact, the efforts of these nongovernmental organizations need to be aided by urgent government action. This action is essential to protect Thai citizens and migrant workers.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr