Slavery in Thailand
The Land of Smiles is one of 10 nations accounting for 75 per cent of slavery
Article: Dietrich Neu – Foreign Correspondent
Thailand is one of 10 countries that account for 75 per cent of the world’s slavery, according to a recent report by the Walk Free Foundation.
2013 was the inaugural edition of the report, titled the Global Slavery Index. The index ranked 162 countries across the globe based on an “estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population, a measure of child marriage, and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country.”
The Walk Free Foundation recruited hundreds of researchers for the project, which it says will be an annual report from now on.
The document states that Thailand has the seventh-largest enslaved population in the world.
Despite being one of the wealthiest nations in Southeast Asia, Thailand is suffering from the most prominent slavery culture in the region, the study says.
The report even goes so far as to call the country a “hub of exploitation in the region,” and states that human trafficking is a major problem for the Land of Smiles.
“Thai women are particularly vulnerable to trafficking into the forced domestic and sex industries in countries all over the world,” the study reads. “Lured by seemingly genuine job offers, but often exploited via debt bondage.”
These slaves, predominantly women, are shipped all over the world.
In addition, the country faces a unique problem within its fishing industry. Thailand is one of the world’s top exporters of seafood. However, an extremely low unemployment rate (forth lowest worldwide) mixed with a growing seafood industry has lead many fishing companies to look for migrant workers from surrounding regions like Burma, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
[pullquote]“Reports suggest that in addition to extensive working hours, poor and often withheld pay, there is a high level of violence experienced by migrant workers on fishing vessels. Of 49 Cambodian fishers surveyed by UNIAP SIREN, 59 per cent had witnessed a murder by the boat captain.” [/pullquote]
“Many fishers find themselves in situations of debt bondage due to costs occurred during transfer and placement with employers,” the report says. “Given that boats are often in the deep sea for lengthy periods of time, the ability to escape poor working conditions is significantly harder. Reports suggest that in addition to extensive working hours, poor and often withheld pay, there is a high level of violence experienced by migrant workers on fishing vessels. Of 49 Cambodian fishers surveyed by UNIAP SIREN, 59 per cent had witnessed a murder by the boat captain.”
The index estimates there are around half-a-million slaves in Thailand based on the criteria outlined by WFF, and notes that human trafficking is a particular problem for the country.
The United States Department of State also gave the country a poor rating.
The US 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report has ranked the country as a “Tier 2 Watchlist” nation, the second lowest ranking possible. To qualify for a Tier 2 ranking in the TIP report the “absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking [has to be] very significant or significantly increasing,” and “there [must be] a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.”
As bad as Thailand’s ranking is, the Global Slavery Index highlights a problem that is worldwide.
“Most governments don’t dig deeply into slavery for a lot of bad reasons,” said Kevin Bales, lead researcher on the project.” There are exceptions, but many governments don’t want to know about people who can’t vote, who are hidden away, and are likely to be illegal anyway. The laws are in place, but the tools and resources and the political will are lacking. And, since hidden slaves can’t be counted, it is easy to pretend they don’t exist.”