UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons: “Thailand must do more to combat human trafficking effectively”

Following her 11 day long anti-trafficking mission (August 8-19) visiting Chiang Mai, Mae Sot, Samut Sakhon, Songkhla and Tak, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo returned to Bangkok to hold a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding her preliminary findings and recommendations.

The conclusions drawn by the Special Rapporteur are shaped by her dialogues with Government representatives, judiciary, civil society organizations, as well as with trafficking victims themselves, the importance of which Ms. Ezeilo emphasized already at the outset of her mission.

Although the Special Rapporteur acknowledges important steps taken by the Thai Government such as the enactment of the Anti-Trafficking In Persons (ATIP) Act 2008, as well as setting up provincial multidisciplinary teams to strengthen cooperation between Government agencies and civil society organizations, she concludes that “Thailand must do more to combat human trafficking effectively”.

One of the most urgent challenges regards the interpretation of the law and the inadequate identification of victims of trafficking, “too often misidentified as irregular migrants, arrested and deported without any risk assessment as to whether the return would be safe”.

Even though the ATIP Act 1998 includes a general definition of trafficking in persons as stated in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, commonly referred to as the “Palermo Protocol”, there is a lack in the understanding of the law and key elements of trafficking, inevitably resulting in fragmented implementation of existing legal framework and policies on trafficking in persons.

Ms. Ezeilo raises concerns regarding existing measures used to identify trafficking victims, such as telephone hotlines, where the Government has not taken into account the language barrier that needs to be addressed as many victims come from neighboring countries and do not speak Thai or English. Without services provided in more languages, these types of measures are largely ineffective. 

Following the lack of knowledge and skills in key areas, such as identification of victims of trafficking, the Special Rapporteur concludes that “the Government should scale up capacity building trainings for all actors”. Police, judges, prosecutors, immigration officials and labor inspectors are among the group of actors especially mentioned by the Ms. Ezeilo as in need of this type of special training in identifying and protecting trafficking victims. 

A special concern underlines the issue of migrant workers who are increasingly being pushed into forced and exploitative labor, many ending up slaving in agricultural, construction and fishing industries. As the Special Rapporteur explains, “root causes of trafficking, particularly demands for cheap and exploitative labor provided by migrant workers, are not being effectively addressed”.

Regarding migration, Ms. Ezeilo concludes that a stricter legal framework is not the solution. Instead she calls for the Government to “provide safe migration options, as well as eliminate vulnerabilities of migrant workers and their families to all forms of human trafficking”.

Apart from inadequate victim identification measures and the ever growing scale of labor and sex trafficking, the Special Rapporteur reports many challenges relating to the rehabilitation and recovery process. She expresses a growing concern that shelters are becoming detention centers, resulting in the violation of fundamental rights of the victims, such as the freedom of movement. Ms Ezeilo urges the Government to “provide comprehensive and individually tailored assistance to victims”.

Close attention must be paid to the situation of the victims as being victims of trafficking in order to avoid holding them responsible for offences that result from trafficking, such as the breaking of immigration laws.

In addition, she concludes that “corruption has diluted the efficacy of Government policies and programmes to combat human trafficking” and that a zero tolerance towards such practices must be promoted by the Government, with special focus and monitoring of the police force.

As trafficking stretches across borders, regional cooperation is imperative and the Special Rapporteur urges the Thai Government to immediately ratify the Palermo Protocol “to bring itself in tandem with neighboring States”. She also calls on Thailand to ratify of the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families” to protect the rights of migrant workers “who are increasingly vulnerable to forced and exploitative labor”.

In addition, the ratification of the ILO Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers adopted at the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference in June this year is also strongly recommended.

The Special Rapporteur describes her mission as productive, but acknowledges that the Thai Government did not agree with all her conclusions. Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi, Director-General of the Department of International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand describes the mission as generating a “very fruitful discussion with Thai agencies” and that the Thai Government welcomes all the observations made by the Special Rapporteur and is determined to do all that can be done to improve what is lacking, at the same time strongly underlining all the positive efforts that has already been made.

Based on the preliminary findings of the country visit, the Special Rapporteur will compile a full report of the mission to be presented before the UN Human Rights Council as well as the General Assembly in June next year. Until then, the Special Rapporteur expressed enthusiasm to continue her constructive dialogue with the Thai Government to protect victims of all forms of trafficking and prevent their heartbreaking stories from repeating themselves time and time again. 


Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”