Chapter 2 of the Act establishes the ATP and CMP committees. Chapter 3 sets out the powers and duties of the Competent Official, who are particular superior administrative or police officials with at least a level 3 rank.70 Chapter 5 establishes the Anti-TIP Fund, used to assist and protect trafficked victims, repatriate victims to their home countries, and prevent trafficking at a national and international level.71 Chapter 6 of the Act lays out penalties for traffickers.72
Chapter 4 is the most significant chapter for trafficking victims as it lays out assistance and safety protections for them. The competent official is charged with placing the trafficked person in the appropriate shelter and informing the trafficked person of his or right to compensation.73 If the trafficked person claims compensation, the public prosecutor is supposed to claim compensation on behalf of the trafficked person.74 If the trafficked person serves as a witness, they are covered by the provisions of the Witness Protection Act described above.75
Section 37 provides that a trafficking victim has temporary permission to stay in Thailand for legal proceedings, medical treatment, rehabilitation, or claim for compensation, and is allowed to work while doing so. Section 38 provides that the victim shall be repatriated to his home country as quickly as possible. Section 39 provides protections for Thai nationals, migrants, and stateless persons who are trafficked to another country but want to return to Thailand. If the victim is a Thai national, he or she will be returned to Thailand without delay. If the victim is a legal migrant or in the process of being granted temporary residence who wants to stay in Thailand, he or she should be granted permission to remain in Thailand without delay. If the victim is an alien in the foreign country and has no any identity document, “but there is a reasonable ground to belie[ve]that such person has, or used to have a domicile or residence in the Kingdom lawfully,” then “once the status of domicile or residence of the said person has been verified,” he or she is granted permission to remain in Thailand.76
This last paragraph of Section 39 regarding aliens with no identity documents is very important as many child trafficking victims are stateless persons. Many come from the hill tribes located in Northern Thailand on the Myanmar border and are forced into trafficking because their families have little other prospects for making money. However, the law as presently written is not adequate because it only provides protections for those stateless children who are found in a foreign country, but not those who are trafficked within Thailand, as many are. The law also provides that the stateless person will only be allowed to remain in Thailand once his or her past residence is verified – but a stateless person might have no way of proving that he has always lived within Thailand’s borders. These protections are inadequate for stateless persons.
1. Stateless people in Thailand are the single Thai people group most vulnerable to trafficking. This population’s significance is underscored by the fact that globally, Thailand ranks third to neighboring Myanmar and to Nepal for the highest statelessness figure in the world.77 Stateless persons are so vulnerable to trafficking in part because Thai law affords them little legal protection.78 Consequently, protections for them in the Anti-TIP Act should be strengthened. The Anti-TIP Act says that for a stateless person to be allowed to remain legally in Thailand, there must be a reasonable ground to believe that they have lawful domicile or residence and the lawful domicile or residence must be verified. This requirement should be removed. Any person who is stateless and who wishes to remain in Thailand should be allowed to do so without first having to prove legal domicile or residency.
G. National Policy Strategies and Measures to Prevent and Suppress TIP (2011-2016)
In May 2010, the cabinet passed the National Policy Strategies and Measures to Prevent and Suppress TIP guidelines (“the Policy”), put together by the MSDHS in consult with other GOs and NGOs. The Policy is the most recent one passed by the Thai government concerning trafficking. The Policy’s main objectives is to provide guidelines for prevention, prosecution, protection, development and implementation of policy measures, management of information, and promote cooperation among all sectors to fight TIP in Thailand.79 The guidelines provide some more defined legal processes, but people in all sectors of anti-trafficking work agree that Thailand still needs much work on its implementation of its laws and policies.
One strength of the Policy is that it identifies “groups at risk” which include those who may or may not have Thai citizenship and are in the state of migration, those who are in the state of earning income that does not meet their actual work, and those who are individuals/groups of individuals who are vulnerable to exploitation and may be victims of labor exploitation of detention.80The policy lists several measures that should be taken for prevention, prosecution, protection, policy implementation, and administration. However, many of these measures are either severely lacking in implementation or have not yet been implemented at all.
1. Despite the fact that stateless persons are identified part of the “groups at risk” target group, little protection exists for them today.
2. As mentioned in the recommendations for MSDHS in Part I of this paper, many hotline offices still do not have interpreters. Interpretive services should be prioritized as the majority of trafficked victims are not Thai speakers. Advertisements for the government hotline and OSCC website should be written not only in Thai but also in Burmese, Laotian, and Hill Tribe languages like Karen and Khmer.
H. Memorandum of Understandings
In addition to the development of its own country’s laws, Thailand has also created legal agreements with other countries in the GMS region. Thailand is party, along with Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam, to the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking Memorandum of Understanding (“COMMIT MOU”) on Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.81 One year prior to the COMMIT MOU, Thailand and Cambodia signed an MOU.82 Recognized as the “pioneering MOU” in the COMMIT MOU, it served as a model for further bilateral agreements between the six countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.83 Thailand has since signed MOUs with Laos PDR (2005),84 Myanmar (2009),85 and Viet Nam (2008).86
All of these original MOUs specify women and children as their target victim group; the countries signed separate agreements on labor and employment. As the world has come to realize that boys and men are victims of forced labor trafficking and also sex trafficking, and should thus be covered in anti-trafficking protocol, the focus on “especially women and children” has been removed from revised MOUs. Research on the male trafficked population continues, but the numbers in Thailand are much higher than previously thought.
Each MOU created a Joint Task Force, comprised of representatives from both parties, which meets every three years (Myanmar and Laos) or every five years (Cambodia) to review the MOU’s implementation. The review of the Cambodia-Thailand MOU, which was supposed to be every five years, was delayed because of political tension between the countries. The author attended the first official review meeting between Cambodia’s and Thailand’s delegations on bilateral cooperation to combat trafficking in persons, and the two countries signed a revised MOU and Plan of Action on June 11, 2013. The revised MOU seeks to specify ways that the countries can improve trafficking prevention, such as ensuring free primary education, encouraging regular school attendance, increasing occupational job training, developing community surveillance networks in trafficking hot-spot areas, and cooperating with the private sector to strengthen their role in combatting trafficking.87 For victim protection, in response to published research on the psychological effects of trafficking, the revised MOU specifies that health care includes psycho-social support.88 For law enforcement cooperation, the revised MOU states that the law enforcement process will be streamlined and police officer training programs increased to combat trafficking more effectively.89
Specific to children, the revised MOU delegates child trafficking victims age and gender sensitive services.90 It also provides that the same services available to victims will be available to any children accompanying victims.91 In addition to these country specific MOUs, Thailand’s law enforcement agencies also sign agency-to-agency MOUs with police agencies of bordering countries. For instance, the DSI signed a “Terms of Reference” (similar to an MOU) with the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) in November 6, 2012 to establish shared information networks with Myanmar.92 The Terms of Reference sets out that meetings between the DSI and MPF will take place every four months, alternating host countries.93 Since 2010, the two task forces have already had eight meetings and
will have their ninth meeting in August of 2013. These regular meetings have lead to increased arrests of traffickers and repatriation of Burmese trafficked victims. Trafficking victims are repatriated to their families through government-to-government, commonly referred to as “G2G,” networks. A G2G network means that a trafficking victim who has gone through Thailand’s legal process are brought to one of the six friendship bridges and handed off to the other country’s government who then supervises the victim’s return to his or her family.94 This is in contrast to illegal migrants, who are simply dropped at the border and are extremely vulnerable to being picked up by a broker to be trafficked or re-trafficked.95
There are no specific recommendations for the MOUs because each MOU is specific to the agencies and countries and outside the scope of this paper. The above description summarizes the intent of the MOUs and provides some interesting details on those MOUs the author was privy to, namely the Thai-Cambodia revised MOU and the recent DSI-MPF MOU.
III. CASE SPOTLIGHTS
A. Lao Victims of Sexual Exploitation
In late 2011, the DSI received a request from an NGO, Alliance Anti Trafic (AAT) and from the Lao PDR Embassy in Thailand. The mother of a victim had hand-written a letter to AAT’s Lao office asking help for her daughter who was being held in debt bondage as a prostitute at a karaoke bar in southern Thailand. The AAT-Lao contacted AAT’s headquarters in Bangkok, who works closely with the DSI, and the Lao PDR embassy.96
The mother had signed up her daughter, Pare, and Pare’s two friends, Kae and Ploy, to travel to Bangkok to be waitresses for 2,000 baht (about $64) per month. The girls were aged 17, 17, and 16, respectively. The Lao broker gave a little money to the mother when she signed the girls up. The Lao broker then contacted a second broker who made the girls false passports indentifying them as over 18. The broker brought the girls to Bangkok on October 24, 2011, where they thought they would serve as waitresses.97 Instead, in Bangkok, the second broker sold the girls to the owner of two karaoke bars in the south of Thailand. The owner paid the second broker for the cost of travel, passports, and broker fees.98 The owner then took them far south to Su-ngai Kolok in Narathiwat Province, near the Malaysian border. The Narathiwat province is well-known among Malaysian tourists as bustling with prostitutes. The girls were taken to a karaoke bar which in fact had no karaoke at all – it only served as a brothel.99
The karaoke owner kept the girls’ passports and forced them to work as prostitutes. There were 38 other girls and women serving as prostitutes. The girls did not want to be there, but the owner told them they had to work because they owed him many thousands in baht for their travel and immigration fees.100
70 Id. at § 4 (definition of competent official).
72 A trafficker is liable for four to ten years of imprisonment for an adult trafficking victim, six to twelve years of imprisonment for a sixteen or seventeen year old victim, and eight to fifteen years for a victim fifteen and under. Id. at § § 52.
77 See Trends in Displacement, Protection, and Solutions: Eleven Years of Statistics, UNHCR Statistical Yearbook 2011, 11th edition, http://www.unhcr.org/516282cf5.html.
78 Recent amendments in 2012 to Thailand’s Nationality Act provide stateless persons who qualify as “displaced Thai” with a possible path to citizenship. However, at the time of this writing, roughly half of the 1 million stateless people in Thailand remain without citizenship. See Nationality Act, Kingdom of Thailand, B.E. 2508 (Sept. 19, 2012). Thailand has not ratified either of the United Nations statelessness conventions.
79 See National Policy Strategies and Measures to Prevent and Suppress TIP (2011-2016), Objectives, 6.
80 See id. at Definitions.
81 See Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, Yangon, Myanmar (Oct. 29, 2004)(hereinafter “COMMIT MOU”).
82 See Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia on Bilateral Cooperation for Eliminating Trafficking in Children and Women and Assisting Victims of Trafficking, Siem Reap, Cambodia (May 31, 2003).
84 See Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand on Cooperation to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Bangkok, Thailand (July 13, 2005).
85 See Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of the Union of Myanmar on Cooperation to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar (April 24, 2009).
86 Agreement Between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam on Bilateral Cooperation for Eliminating Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and Assisting Victims of Trafficking, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam (Mar. 24, 2008).
88 Id. at Art. 8. For a thorough report of the challenges trafficking victims of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region face in the reintegration process, see Rebecca Surtees, After Trafficking: Experiences and Challenges in the (re)integration of trafficked persons in the GMS, Nexus Institute (April 2013), currently in the draft version.
92 See Terms of Reference: Bilateral Meetings between Myanmar Police Force and Thailand Department of Special Investigation on Cross-border Human Trafficking, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar (Nov. 6, 2012); see also 7th DSI-MPF Bilateral Task Force Meeting, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar (Nov. 6, 2012).
93 Terms of Reference, Paragraph 7.
94 Friendship bridges currently connecting to Laos and Myanmar are: Nong Khai, Thailand to Vientiane, Laos; Mukdahan, Thailand to Savannakhet, Laos; Nakhorn Phanom, Thailand to Khammouane, Laos; Mae Sai, Thailand to Tachileik, Myanmar. A fourth friendship bridge from Chiang Rai, Thailand to Ban Houayxay, Laos is under construction. A second friendship bridge from Mae Sot, Thailand to Myawaddy, Myanmar is currently under construction. A third checkpoint connects in Southern Thailand from Ranong, Thailand to Kawthoung, Myanmar, but there is no bridge here.
95 “Re-trafficked” is used to highlight the reality that some deportees should have been identified as trafficking victims, but for a multitude of reasons were not. Reasons include corruption of police and immigration officers who accept bribes in exchange for deportation, or the trafficked person saying he or she was working voluntarily out of fear of police and immigration officers. Also, the trafficked person may choose to be deported rather than go through the long process of repatriation as an official trafficking victim.
96 Interview with Khun Pattanetr Ramantkura. The DSI often works closely with AAT, which now has offices in five countries: Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Viet Nam. See www.allianceantitrafic.org for more information.
97 Witness Statements, translated for author by Khun Pattanetr.
99 Interview with Khun Jatuporn, DSI Chief of prevention and suppression of human trafficking.