60 per cent of victims were women . . .
A record 1,807 victims of human trafficking were rescued in Thailand in 2019, surpassing the previous highest number of 982 victims in 2015. Thai police said that 60 per cent of those rescued were women, and that the majority were migrants from Myanmar headed for Malaysia. Most of those rescued were trafficked for labour, but the news follows years of accusations of sex trafficking, as well as human slavery, in Thailand. Concerns have now been raised about the Thai government’s ability to support these latest victims.
Seafood industry features prominently . . .
Thailand’s seafood industry featured prominently in the human trafficking announcement. The connection was first reported in 2014 following an investigation by The Guardian that found that large numbers of men were trafficked in the production of prawns sold in leading retailers, including Walmart and Costco. The U.S. and E.U. subsequently denounced Thailand, with the former downgrading the country’s rating in its Trafficking in Persons Report to Tier 3, the lowest level possible, while the latter issued a ‘yellow card’ and threatened to ban Thai seafood exports to the E.U. Thailand moved up to a Tier 2 rating in 2018, with the yellow card status also lifted. But according to rights group Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index, Thailand is still home to 610,000 modern-day slaves.
A larger issue in Southeast Asia . . .
Cases of human trafficking in Thailand follow larger trends of trafficking across Southeast Asia. This was brought to global attention in October 2019 when 39 people, most identified as Vietnamese, were found dead in the back of a truck in the U.K. Thailand’s cases are also linked to trends of forced migration in the region, most notably the Rohingya refugee crisis. Thai police has reported trafficking cases involving Rohingya refugees who were bound for Malaysia. Cambodian and Vietnamese migrants are also trafficked to Thailand as a result of poverty and poor socioeconomic conditions in their home countries.
- Reuters: Record number of trafficking victims in Thailand raises concerns over care
- Deutsche Welle: Thai fishing industry makes headway, but challenges remain
- Walk Free Foundation: Global Slavery Index