thaicables – It's Your Right to know the Truth!

06BANGKOK1115 UPDATE ON TRAFFICKING PROJECTS IN NORTHERN THAILAND

leave a comment »

“54143”,”2/24/2006 8:27″,”06BANGKOK1115″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

240827Z Feb 06

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 BANGKOK 001115

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

STATE FOR G/TIP, EAP/MLS, DRL/IL, PRM/PRP

DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB – MARK MITTELHAUSER AND BRANDIE

SASSER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: KWMN, KCRM, ELAB, PHUM, KJUS, TH

SUBJECT: UPDATE ON TRAFFICKING PROJECTS IN NORTHERN THAILAND

 

1. (SBU) Summary. Anti-trafficking NGOs in northern Thailand report

that increased attention to TIP has caused changes in the

trafficking business. Traffickers are forced to work harder for

fewer gains; however, they are also working smarter, better

disguising illicit businesses and creating broad networks that

emulate other forms of organized crime. In addition, evidence

suggests that the well-trodden routes to Bangkok are being

redirected to the South, which is alleged by Thai police and

international NGOs to be a growing transit point for destinations

elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The Golden Triangle — historically a

Bermuda Triangle for trafficking — is saturated with NGOs

addressing the problem. Nonetheless, the root causes of trafficking

are still prevalent, with the most vulnerable populations being the

poor, the uneducated, and members of stateless hill tribes. The

Thai police force has increased its awareness about TIP issues in

recent years, but low-ranking, low-paid officers are still allegedly

not always on the side of the law. Three Emboffs recently visited

eight NGOs in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai that have received, or

currently receive, DOS funding, to be updated on their programs.

End Summary.

 

—–

DEPDC

—–

 

2. (U) The Development and Education Programme for Daughters and

Communities (DEPDC) was created in 1989 by Director Sompop Jantraka,

two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a Time Magazine Asian Hero in

2002. Sompop told Emboffs that that a Peace Corps volunteer had

greatly influenced him in his youth, developing in him an awareness

of human rights and encouraging him to obtain a higher education.

Sompop now does the same for youth in the north. His NGO in Mae

Sai, a small town near the Burmese border, is reminiscent of a

school campus with its open fields and playgrounds. DEPDC focuses

its activities on education, believing it to be an antidote to the

desperate decisions made by families to sell young girls into labor.

Sompop noted that he would like to build a long term

anti-trafficking network, but having only NGO status makes this goal

difficult.

 

3. (U) DEPDC\’s staff of 44, including nine Thai and six

international volunteers, manages 314 students. Fifty-six children

live on DEPDC\’s campus and study at the local government school.

DEPDC\’s projects include a half day school that provides free day

care for local minority children (Shan, Tai Lue and Akha tribes),

6-16 years old, who lack citizenship or are too poor to enroll in

the formal education system. DEPDC also runs a Border Child

Protection and Rights Center (BCPR), a network of NGOs, government,

and community organizations that operates a 24-hour shelter and

conducts emergency rescues for children who have been raped,

orphaned, trafficked, or are homeless.

 

4. (U) Another DEPDC project, the Mekong Youth Network (MYN),

selects young women from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and China to be

trained for one year in TIP issues. They return to educate their

communities in the legal and cultural ramifications of human

trafficking. Fourteen of these future community leaders described

to Emboffs the prevalence of \”employment agents\” visiting rural

villages afflicted by poverty and drought, offering ostensibly

legitimate work to underage youths willing to cross into Thailand.

In some cases, the families of these youths pay exorbitant up-front

employment fees; in others, the workers find themselves in immediate

debt due to placement fees to be paid off by future earnings. One

Laotian girl described the ease with which children crossed the

Thai-Laos border in the company of any adult, not necessarily a

parent, by paying bribes to border guards. She said her home

village in Laos had 27 children classified as missing in the past

two years. Many schoolchildren leave Laos to find work in Thailand

during their 2-month summer break, she said, but a myth has been

perpetuated that they will be fined 1700 baht (USD 42.50) once they

try to return.

 

5. (SBU) Sompop told Emboffs that finding the \”kingpins\” of

trafficking activity has become nearly impossible, as its networks

are an extensive and intricate web of actors. Traffickers allegedly

maintain ties with corrupt elements in the police force, and obtain

funding for their activities through bank loans given for seemingly

legitimate entertainment centers such as hotels and karaoke bars.

Death threats have caused Sompop to scale back his efforts to

apprehend traffickers, and to focus more on prevention.

 

——————————————–

MEKONG INDIGENOUS CHILD RIGHTS HOME (MRICRH)

——————————————–

 

6. (U) Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home (MRICRH) in Mae

Chan is both a government and non-governmental organization,

co-administered through the Ministry of Social Development and Human

Security, and DEPDC. MRICRH has created a network of social

programs for children of abuse, exploitation, and neglect. Family

and psychological counseling, medical services, and legal help

(provided by the State Department-funded International Justice

Mission, or IJM) are offered.

 

7. (U) MRICRH focuses on family rehabilitation to prevent

trafficking cases. A voluntary network locates the families of

victims, and assesses the home environment before deciding whether

repatriation is appropriate. Hill tribe leaders are engaged in the

victims\’ rehabilitation process, to correct the negative stigma

often associated with a victim\’s return. This community involvement

is, according to MRICRH, one reason for the area\’s dramatic decrease

in TIP cases, from 94 cases in 2004 to 53 cases in 2005. Although

cases are decreasing, MRICH emphasized that their degree of severity

is increasing.

 

—————-

MIRROR ART GROUP

—————-

 

8. (U) Mirror Art Group (MAG) is run by a young dynamic team,

focused on strengthening tribal villages and their customs. Located

on artfully designed grounds, with clay huts and foot bridges

crossing a small river, the group supports tribal communities

through activities including an anti-drug community network, a

volunteer teacher program, a second hand clothing drive, and a

project to combat trafficking. They also operate a television

station, featuring productions by and for hilltribe members, which

has won a World Bank award for innovation. The team has also

produced short film pieces describing their work, with past USG

funding prominently acknowledged in the DVDs they have shown to an

estimated 20,000 viewers so far. MAG also recently won a USD 15,000

grant under EAP\’s 2005 Women\’s Issues Fund.

 

9. (U) MAG sees a direct relationship between lack of citizenship

and vulnerability to trafficking. They estimate that 50,000 of

Thailand\’s hill tribe children lack Thai citizenship, despite being

born in country, and have limited access to education, healthcare,

labor rights, and other social benefits. Hill tribe members are

given color-coded identity cards indicating their status, and the

extent to which they may travel, work, or own property. Offenders

face fines and a jail term. Given these conditions, MAG claims that

traffickers can exploit stateless people merely through offering

them job opportunities, without needing to deceive or coerce. MAG

identified six types of stateless people:

 

– Morgans (sea gypsies) and hill tribe people, who have

resided in Thailand for generations;

– Migrants, who are subject to complicated laws about

citizenship eligibility;

– Displaced Thais, who found themselves in Burma when the

border shifted east after World War II;

– Those without any record of birth;

– Those who lost registration rights after leaving their

villages to work elsewhere, and did not re-register;

– Those who do not know their identity.

 

——————-

MAE SUAY LAW CENTER

——————-

 

10. (SBU) Mae Suay Law Center was founded by two former employees of

the Catholic Commission for Ethnic Groups (CEG), an organization

that was given funding by DOS to gain citizenship for hilltribes.

Located in the Mae Suay district of Chiang Rai, the Mae Suay Law

Center works to change and implement policy on citizenship for

hilltribes. Their lawyers push policy through the government on the

national level, and then push government workers to implement

changes on the local level. (Note: Representatives of Mae Suay Law

Center reported that policy changes do not always filter down to

rural levels, as some local government employees feel they are

granting favors to constituents, as opposed to fulfilling legal

obligations. End note.)

 

11. (U) Mae Suay Law Center belongs to a consortium of lawyers

working on stateless issues, composed of IJM, CEG, and the Mirror

Art group. Forty villages in the area each provide one

representative to receive training twice per month, throughout one

year, to become a legal resource for their village. Training

includes information about rights extending beyond citizenship,

specifically regarding labor protection, as laborers are

increasingly moving south to Hat Yai to work in tuna canning

factories, rubber glove factories, and in apparel.

 

——–

TRAFCORD

——–

 

12. (U) Trafcord\’s program coordinator, Ben Svasti, briefed Emboffs

at his office, housed in the Chiang Mai provincial hall. Trafcord\’s

main role is to facilitate coordination between nine provinces in

northern Thailand, mostly with government agencies and NGOs working

on children\’s and women\’s issues in border towns. The network is

large and multidisciplinary, encompassing legal aid organizations,

shelters, forensics and medical teams, and the public prosecutor\’s

office.

 

13. (U) Trafcord handled 22 cases in 2005 (as many as 50 victims can

be involved in one case). Of these, 62 percent were related to

prostitution; 22 percent were classified as at-risk persons; 8

percent related to sex-abuse; 4 percent forced-labor; and 4 percent

child beggars. The victims\’ nationalities are overwhelmingly

Burmese, usually Shan, making up 76 percent of the cases. Thais are

involved in 10 percent of cases, with the remaining 14 percent being

Chinese, Laos, and others.

 

14. (U) Four cases handled by Trafcord resulted in sentencing in

2005. They are as follows.

 

– On July 12, 2005, the Fang district court in Chiang Mai sentenced

Ms. Wandee Boonsawat to 16 years of imprisonment for the charge of

procurer according to the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of

Prostitution Act, the Criminal Code, and the 1997 Act on Measures to

Prevent and Suppress Trafficking in Women and Children. The

14-year-old victim was trafficked to Bangkok and forced into

prostitution in a massage parlor. Her mother brought the case to

TRAFCORD in 2003, and the victim is now under TRAFCORD\’s care for

professional training and education.

 

– On October 13, 2005, the Lampang Court in Muang district sentenced

Mr. Boonseub Sangchai and Ms. Thitima Choadam to 10 years each for

the charge of procurer under the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of

Prostitution Act. TRAFCORD and the Lampang Multidisciplinary Team

(LMT) rescued 14 girls and women from the brothel masquerading as an

entertainment place, including two girls aged 14 and 16 years old.

These two girls received therapy and occupational training through

TRAFCORD\’s network. TRAFCORD also filed for compensation under the

Act of Compensation for Injured Persons, and won 30,000 baht (USD

750) for the victims, making it the first TIP case in Thailand to be

awarded under the Act of Compensation.

 

– On October 20, 2005 the Lampang Court sentenced Ms. Pimpa Chan-ay

to 16 years of imprisonment, and Mr. Temsak Musikapoom and Ms.

Supapan Saodee to 15 years of imprisonment for the charge of

procurer according to the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of

Prostitution Act and 1979 Immigration Act. In May 2004, TRAFCORD

and MDT rescued five Laotian TIP victims from Pimpa Bar Beer, which

served as a brothel. The Laotian trafficker is still at large.

 

– On December 19, 2005 the Chiang Mai Court sentenced Mr. Ayo (aka

Yo or Cheunlong Chaemue) to 13 years and 6 months of imprisonment

for the charge of procurer of children under 15 years old according

to the Criminal Code. The victims are street boys aged 12, 15, and

17 years old. Mr. Ayo procured them for commercial sex with an

Italian man, who has since fled the country. A warrant is out for

his arrest. TRAFCORD has been investigating this case for the last

year, in coordination with Italian Embassy, and provided legal and

social welfare assistances in order to prepare the victims for the

justice system.

 

15. (U) Svasti noted that trafficking victims in Thailand are

\”rarely overjoyed\” to be rescued, because even debt bondage can be

preferable to the poverty and family problems they endured in their

hometowns. In addition, Thailand\’s brothels do not approach the

extreme, locked-in-chains conditions found elsewhere, such as in

India. Trafficked victims who are unable to receive vocational

training or education usually return quickly to their former lives

and are susceptible to being trafficked again. Svasti explained

that the MOUs signed with Cambodia and Laos are key to the success

of trafficking prevention programs, as they are binding agreements

that establish procedures for law implementation; for example, MOUs

allow trafficking laws to supersede national immigration laws. An

MOU with Burma is desirable, he said, but not in the cards for the

near future due to the political situation there.

 

16. (SBU) When asked about Trafcord\’s relationship with the police,

Svasti replied that much has changed in the last 5 years.

Previously, Trafcord could contact one lone trustworthy cop. Now,

the understanding of human trafficking has increased (despite a

profound lack of knowledge about TIP laws) and senior officers will

not risk their jobs by engaging in TIP-related corruption. Younger

officers, however, are still willing to accept bribes to supplement

meager salaries. Svasti explained that male police officers retain

ingrained attitudes regarding women\’s rights and gender issues that

are common in Asia, and that need to be addressed during police

training.

 

——————————————— —

INTER MOUNTAIN PEOPLES EDUCATION AND CULTURE IN

THAILAND (IMPECT)

——————————————— —

 

17. (U) The Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand

Association (IMPECT) is an indigenous and tribal NGO founded and

staffed by representatives from indigenous communities. IMPECT

educates the public about its legal rights, working with 200-300

communities within seven tribal groups: the Akha, Hmong, Lahu, Lisu,

Lua, Karen, and Mien. IMPECT and IJM work together in five

districts in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Under the IJM partnership,

they have helped obtain citizenship for 4,000 – 5,000 people, and

follow up in some areas with DNA testing to obtain citizenship

rights for children.

 

18. (SBU) As with Mae Suay Law Center, IMPECT attested that

implementing policy at district levels is difficult, finding that

some officials respond only to bribes. IMPECT representatives told

Emboffs that villagers do not dare stand up to officials to demand

their rights, because \”they will always suffer. They are not

considered Thai, which is why we need to serve them.\”

 

19. (U) IMPECT has also worked in the area of education for tribal

children. In the past, non-citizens were allowed to go to school,

but not to receive certificates of study. New requirements

authorize all students to receive certificates, but IMPECT finds

that this is often ignored, or that certificates for tribal children

will be marked with a stamp of \”No Citizenship.\” IMPECT works with

villages and schools to obtain equal educational rights for hill

tribe children.

 

——————————————— —-

ILO-FUNDED RESEARCH ON WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR

——————————————— —-

 

20. (U) Professor Nongyao, from Chiang Mai University, met with

Emboffs to discuss her ILO-funded research: to understand the worst

forms of child labor within five northern Thai provinces, including

Tak, Chiang Rai, and Udorn Ratchathani. Professor Nongyao

corroborated IMPECT\’s statement that, in practice, few schools allow

non-Thai children to enroll, despite being a significant percent of

the population: in 2003, 30 percent of the births in the Mae Sot

Hospital were to migrant workers. In 2005, that number rose to 42

percent. As an alternative to school, many of these children are in

the labor force. Of the villages in her study, Professor Nongyao

noted that almost 20 percent of the agricultural labor force is less

than 18 years old. Of these, 50 percent are less than 15 years old.

 

21. (U) Most of these children are Burmese Karen, and some Shan.

Their work is hazardous, with many of them spraying chemicals on

rose plantations, fruit trees, and vegetables, up to four times per

month. When interviewed, the children said they were glad to

perform chemical sprays, as it pays 90 baht (USD 2.25) versus the

average 50 baht (USD 1.25) for other agricultural tasks. Professor

Nongyao believes that the worst forms of child labor can be reduced

to simply child labor, by providing a safer work atmosphere.

 

———————————

NGO AND IJM STAKEHOLDERS\’ MEETING

———————————

 

22. (U) A stakeholders\’ meeting, moderated by a DOL-contracted

independent evaluation team from Chulalongkorn University in

Bangkok, brought together anti-trafficking NGOs throughout northern

Thailand that have collaborated with IJM. The meeting focused on

IJM\’s ability to meet original objectives of the project, \”Thailand

Sex Trafficking Taskforce: Prevention Placement Program,\” which ran

from 2003 to 2005. The project aimed to put in place a

comprehensive, replicable strategy to combat TIP through prevention,

victim removal and rehabilitation activities (See reftel Bangkok

827.)

 

——————————————–

VOLUNTEER GROUP FOR CHILD DEVELOPMENT (VGDC)

——————————————–

 

23. (U) The Volunteer Group for Child Development Foundation (VGCD)

is run by Anuchon Hualsong, a former recipient of the Embassy\’s

International Volunteer (IV) program. VGCD\’s drop-in center is

located near the center of Chiang Mai, with wide-open doors and

youth sitting at a table outside. Inside, Emboffs glimpsed a

weights machine, educational posters, and children sitting on the

floor eating and talking, all of them greeting their visitors with a

traditional Thai \”wai\”.

 

24. (U) Anuchon, a man of about 30 years old, explained that two

groups of children come to the drop-in center: urban children from

broken families, and those from hill tribes seeking an income in

Chiang Mai. Children from both groups are at risk of, or involved

in, drug use and prostitution. Anuchon estimated that 5-20 children

visit the drop-in shelter per day. The shelter has 3 staff members,

as well as a Big Brother, Big Sister program. Some of the children

still work at their jobs, and some are still street kids. VGDC also

runs a live-in shelter in Sankampang, a suburb of Chiang Mai, which

currently houses 19 children aged 7-16.

 

25. (U) VGCD\’s current activities include basic education in Thai,

health care, and the risks of city life; staff outreach to street

children; coordination with Trafcord and the Center for Protection

of Children\’s Rights; and a trafficking awareness campaign, with

stickers and pamphlets distributed by the children. (Note: VGCD

found that bars and clubs would open their doors when children did

the canvassing. Adults were not so welcome. End note.) In

addition, VGCD has a center with a garden outside of the city for

the children to visit.

 

26. (U) VGCD echoed Trafcord, stating that children, especially the

boys, are often uncooperative with efforts to remove them from

activities in prostitution and labor. The income it provides

sustains them. In addition, the length of court procedures causes

reluctance to testify against traffickers. VGCD has changed its

approach from pressing criminal charges, which overwhelms their

resources, to being informants for the police. Overall, VGCD aims

to convince the children that they can survive in the city without

working in prostitution.

Advertisements

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:06 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: