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06BANGKOK2293 LABOR EXPORT IS BIG BUSINESS IN THAILAND

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“61120”,”4/20/2006 10:16″,”06BANGKOK2293″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,

“06Bangkok1695”,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

201016Z Apr 06

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 10 BANGKOK 002293

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

STATE FOR G/TIP, DRL/IL, CA/FPP, CA/VO/KCC, EAP/MLS

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ELAB, KCRM, CVIS, KFRD, SMIG, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: LABOR EXPORT IS BIG BUSINESS IN THAILAND

 

REF: Bangkok 1695

 

1. (U) Summary: The recent experiences of Thai farm workers in the

U.S., combined with evidence of widespread fraud in the H2A visa

process (reftel), highlight the plight of Thai workers abroad who

are frequently exploited by labor supply agencies (both Thai and

foreign) that charge heavy and illegal recruitment fees. Workers,

academics and government officials indicate that effectively all of

Thai laborers\’ first and often second year earnings go to repaying

initial recruitment fees of their employment contracts. In many

cases, workers do not receive the lengthy contracts and terms they

are promised, and return home in significant debt. In the worst

cases, they are shipped abroad again to pay off their recruiting

debt, have their entire salaries confiscated, or are vulnerable to

being trafficked. End Summary.

 

2. (U) Recent labor problems experienced by Thai workers in the U.S.

and other countries, combined with evidence of widespread fraud in

the U.S. H2A visa process (reftel), have highlighted the plight of

Thai workers abroad who have been exploited by labor supply agencies

(both Thai and foreign) charging heavy and illegal recruitment fees.

The total number of Thai workers abroad ranges from 350,000 to

400,000. Media stories in the past year have noted strikes by Thai

workers protesting conditions in Taiwan, and groups of Thai workers

in the U.S. fleeing farms in North Carolina to seek work elsewhere

or, in some cases, to apply for T visas as victims of trafficking.

Although the number of Thai guest workers in the U.S. (approx.

8,000) is small compared to Thai workers in other countries (such as

Taiwan, with over 100,000), interviews with workers, academics and

government officials suggest that recruitment agencies are using

similar tactics, regardless of destination, to ensnare workers in a

cycle of false job promises and long-term indebtedness.

 

3. (U) The export of Thai labor is not without benefits – studies

suggest that annual remittances from Thai workers abroad total

almost USD 1 billion per year. However, returned workers, academics

and former and current government officials indicate that Thai

laborers abroad cannot pay off their initial recruitment fees until

at least the second or third year of their employment contracts. In

many cases, workers do not receive the lengthy contracts and terms

they are promised, and return home to indebtedness and/or loss of

collateral for the loans they took out to pay an agent to arrange

for work abroad. (In the case of the U.S., the H2 visa category for

temporary, seasonal work does not allow for multiple year issuances.

U.S. agents apply for extensions of validity for these workers, but

there is no guarantee that they will be issued.) In the worst

cases, workers are shipped abroad again to pay off their recruiting

debt (while incurring a new debt), have their entire salaries

confiscated, or are vulnerable to being trafficked.

 

—————————————-

FORMER MP RECOUNTS EARLIER INVESTIGATION

—————————————-

 

4. (SBU) The prevalence of exported Thai labor is not new, but

expanded immediately following the 1997 financial crisis and the

ensuing high unemployment rate. The first high-profile effort to

investigate labor recruitment fraud was led in 2001 by the

then-chair of the House Labor Committee in Thailand\’s Parliament,

Premsak Piayura. Emboffs met the former MP at his monastic retreat

on the outskirts of Bangkok on March 28. Premsak had been in the

headlines earlier that month for quitting his position in PM

Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai party, refusing to run in the recent snap

elections of April 2, and choosing to enter temporary religious

service as a monk.

 

5. (SBU) Seated outside his prayer hut in the forested retreat,

Premsak outlined the wide-ranging web of labor recruiting agents,

sub-agents and foreign companies that his labor committee determined

had conspired to charge workers massive up-front recruitment fees

well in excess of legal limits. The system, he said, had been in

place for a number of years, but accelerated after the Asian

financial crisis of 1997 when rural workers were desperate to find

work abroad. Sub-agents, he said, recruited workers at the village

level and referred them to district or provincial agents working for

a recruitment company based in the region or, more likely, operating

out of Bangkok. In some provinces, labor officials allowed

recruiters to set up shop inside provincial government offices. The

maximum recruitment fees charged to workers, Premsak said, varied by

destination country as follows:

 

Destination Baht (USD)

————————————

United States 1,000,000 (25,000)

Canada 300,000 (7,500)

Taiwan 200,000 (5,000)

Israel 150,000 (3,750)

Malaysia 80,000 (2,000)

 

6. (SBU) The recruitment fees Premsak outlined are well in excess of

the legal limit under Thai law, which allows recruiters to charge no

more than one month per year of the workers\’ eventual salary as a

recruiting fee, plus fixed expenses for passport, transportation,

medical exam and technical skills test. The total fees are not

supposed to exceed 65,000 baht (56,000 for Taiwan). (For the U.S.,

the U.S. company must pay for transporation and housing.) Premsak

said workers were willing to pay excess fees in the belief that they

could earn wages substantial enough to support their families

through remittances. Workers recognized, however, that they would

spend at least the entire first year of work abroad paying off the

debt they accumulated to pay the initial recruitment fee.

 

7. (SBU) In most cases, workers pay the fee through loans obtained

from banks, illegal loan agents or relatives, and by posting their

house titles or land deeds as collateral. This did not concern

workers anticipating multiple-year labor contracts. Premsak said he

interviewed workers who were promised minimum three-year contracts

to work in the U.S., believing they were renewable for two periods

to comprise a total of nine years\’ work – clearly illegal under the

U.S. H2A and H2B visa regulations which allow ten-month contracts,

extendable up to 36 months. Workers had been carefully coached to

lie to visa interviewers and Ministry of Labor officials, believing

they shared the recruiters\’ interest in subverting employment laws.

However, in many cases (including in the U.S.), the workers arrived

in the destination countries to find different employment

conditions, worked in different occupations than those for which

they had been hired (e.g. seafood processing, when they had been

hired as carpenters), or were frequently moved amongst multiple

employment sites. In other cases, workers were never given jobs and

did not leave Thailand, despite having paid the recruitment fee. In

one case, workers who thought they were going to Israel were dumped

off by plane in Hat Yai in the South of Thailand.

 

8. (SBU) Calling his labor investigation the first real corruption

scandal of Thaksin\’s administration, Premsak said the labor system

flourished under post-1997 economic policies which encouraged the

import of cheap migrant labor from Burma, Laos and Cambodia for hard

physical work in Thailand, allowing Thai workers to seek work abroad

for less strenuous work at higher wages. To adequately regulate

labor export, he suggested that, at minimum, relevant labor laws be

amended to impose much harsher penalties for transgressors and

require a more stringent vetting process for labor migrants, as well

as better complaint handling procedures to properly compensate

cheated workers. As labor committee chair, he said he had proposed

such amendments to the 1975 Employment Law, but that \”nobody wants

to touch it, it\’s a gold mine.\”

 

9. (SBU) Concerning the labor export systems of other governments,

Premsak said there appeared to be three broad categories of public

versus private management of the process:

 

— Regulating it strictly on a Government-to-

Government basis, whereby governments take on the

task of identifying jobs overseas and recruiting

workers.

 

— Allowing complete private company management of job

matching and labor recruitment, which runs the risk

of unscrupulous agents flouting the regulations.

 

— Having a mixed publicly/privately managed system

which allows private companies to manage labor

export but with stringent government oversight.

 

10. (SBU) Premsak said he favored the third of these options, which

is ideally what should be in place in Thailand, but believed that

the country\’s recruitment network more closely resembled the second

\’laissez faire\’ category. The government was not eager to implement

a fully government-controlled system (which he said operated in

Vietnam) due to the immense bureaucracy that would be required to

manage the petition process, visa process, transportation and other

requirements.

 

11. (SBU) Premsak, whose term as labor committee chair ended in

2004, said that he had fended off numerous attempts to replace him

by fellow parliamentarians who had business ties to the recruitment

agencies. In one case, a fellow MP directly owned an agency; in

others, the agencies were owned by relatives of MPs. His

committee\’s investigative efforts in 2001 succeeded in forcing the

firing or transfer of eight senior officials in the Ministry of

Labor, including the then Permanent Secretary and Director General

of Employment. These officials, he said, were tolerating the

recruitment agencies\’ flouting of labor export regulations, and in

fact had greatly assisted them by setting up \”one-stop recruitment

centers\” inside government-run provincial labor offices. (One

academic we interviewed confirmed Premsak\’s account, saying a major

piece of evidence in the firings was the presence of large amounts

of money deposited in officials\’ bank accounts from labor supply

companies.) Premsak said he doubted that the overall system has

been changed since he stepped down, and expressed disappointment

that the new labor committee has been less vigilant in following up

complaints.

 

————————–

ACADEMIC STUDIES IN ACCORD

————————–

 

12. (U) Credible academic studies buttress Premsak\’s findings. A

2000 study by the Asian Research Center for Migration at

Chulalongkorn University concluded that: \”Between 1996-1998, more

than 15,000 workers were cheated by unlicensed employment recruiting

agencies and illegal brokers. This resulted in losses of USD 463

million … the most common deceitful practice is to charge workers

a fee but never find them a job.\” Explaining the nature of the

recruitment system, the study continued:

\”The current system is totally market driven, with minimal input

from government in regulating private recruitment agencies. Most

job seekers comply with agency demands and are willing to pay high

fees to get jobs. Many agencies are run by, or backed up by,

politicians who use their influence to abuse the system, sometimes

resulting in job seekers being cheated. There is an urgent need for

the Thai government to intervene, otherwise only the recruiting

agencies, and informal money lenders who help to raise the fees for

the workers, will gain any benefit from labour migration … illegal

agencies in Thailand work with illegal agencies, brokers or

employers in destination countries.\”

 

13. (U) The Chulalongkorn study found that almost 90 percent of

workers who were sent to Taiwan paid recruitment fees exceeding the

legal limit of 56,000 baht. Many paid 150,000 to 200,000 baht, in

accord with the estimates given by Premsak. The study\’s

cost/benefit analysis showed that workers who migrated to Taiwan,

Malaysia and Singapore did not break even until a year into their

employment contracts. The study cites the two principal Thai legal

instruments governing migration for employment (The Immigration Law

of 1981 and the Law of Employment Recruitment of 1985) as

insufficient to protect job seekers due to inadequate penalties and

lack of government oversight of labor supply companies.

 

14. (SBU) A leading labor academic involved in this study told

Laboff she believed that up to two-thirds of labor recruiting

agencies in Thailand were owned by politicians or their relatives.

She said most bureaucrats in the Ministry of Labor were honest, but

under extreme pressure from senior-level officials to keep the flow

of laborers moving. Separately, an NGO labor expert said it was

well known that the overseas employment department was the only

place in the Ministry where officials could earn money on the side,

and that many senior officials did so.

 

15. (SBU) Economists at the Thailand Development Research Institute

(TDRI) second Premsak\’s contention that a major economic \”push\”

factor encouraging Thais to work abroad is the suppression of wages

by the importation of cheap migrant workers (mostly Burmese) into

Thailand. TDRI researchers told Laboff that Thailand\’s wage

elasticity for unskilled workers is extremely low, with the minimum

wage of less than USD 5 per day relatively constant during

Thailand\’s economic recovery from the 1997 crisis. TDRI calculates

that the rate of wage increases for unskilled workers in Thailand is

depressed by 1.14 percent per year for each 500,000 migrant workers

imported. The estimated 2 million migrant workers in Thailand

(mostly Burmese) therefore depress the wage increase rate by 4.56

percent per year.

 

16. (SBU) Economists hasten to add, however, that migrant workers –

as in other countries – provide a much needed service to the Thai

economy by working in physically strenuous industries such as

fishing or construction that Thais now shy from. Unskilled or

low-skilled Thai workers, as a result, are seeking work abroad,

where they can earn salaries ranging from 3-4 times higher in

Taiwan, to 10 times higher in Japan, and even more in the U.S. The

TDRI study echoed the contention heard elsewhere, however, that

workers are unlikely to earn back the money spent on recruitment

fees until the second or third years of their contracts. Those

workers who returned after only one year abroad, the study said,

were no better off than before, and in many cases faced a

debilitating debt burden.

 

—————————–

REAL LIFE CASES REVEAL ABUSES

—————————–

 

17. (SBU) On March 26, Laboff and FSN met in Minburi, a suburb of

Bangkok, with a group of seven workers who are part of a larger

group of 300 workers who have filed complaints with the Ministry of

Labor after losing recruitment fees of 100,000 baht each (USD 2,500)

when promised jobs in North Carolina failed to materialize. The

seven workers were recruited in 2004 from a range of rural provinces

and were assessed the preliminary fee to \”pay for H2A visa petitions

and applications.\” The workers were told their contracts would last

three years, renewable to nine years, and that their salaries would

reach 100,000 baht a month. They said their recruiting agency, Siam

Overseas Co., told them in early 2005 that heavy snow in the U.S.

had forced cancellation of their farming jobs, and they were asked

to pay 4,000 additional baht to acquire an H2B visa for work in

shrimp processing. The workers said that they refused to pay this

fee and, asking for a refund of their original fees, the entire

group of 300 filed complaints with the Ministry of Labor and the

Royal Thai Police. One worker who hired a lawyer was able to

recover his 100,000 baht fee, but the other six workers received bad

checks (copies of which were provided). (The Ministry of Labor

advised Laboff on March 28 that the case is still pending.)

 

18. (SBU) In April 3 interviews in Khon Kaen in Northeast Thailand,

a group of 10 workers described becoming indebted to a Thai

husband-wife team that recruited them to work in Taiwan. The

husband, who represented 10 different labor supply companies,

charged labor broker fees of 200,000 baht each while the wife

operated an illegal finance company that loaned workers the money to

pay their recruiting fee, with land deeds used as collateral.

Several of the workers showed pay slips reflecting the usual 15,840

Taiwanese dollars/month in gross pay (USD 490), with deductions for

continued agent fees that left the workers with 11,000 net. Those

net wages were direct deposited into bank accounts set up by the

labor broker and his wife, who held the ATM cards and took further

deductions before remitting the remaining USD 20-50 a month to the

Thai-based relatives of the workers. The workers themselves

returned to Thailand to find themselves in heavy debt due to 4-6

percent interest charged and compounded monthly on their initial

recruitment loans.

 

19. (SBU) According to the parliamentary aide who accompanied

Emboffs to these meetings, the police chief of the labor broker\’s

home district of Phuu Kiaw, in Khon Kaen province, was transferred

from his position after attempting to investigate the case. Only

the intervention of Premsak, who represented Khon Kaen as an MP, and

a sympathetic public prosecutor have brought the labor broker to

account, and a civil trial is pending on three charges: 1) illegal

labor recruitment; 2) illegal financial schemes; and 3 ) usury.

Lawyers representing the workers said they hope to rescind the

200,000 to 450,000 baht debt burdens of the 10 workers and to regain

their land titles, but they do not expect jail terms for the

perpetrators. The banks involved in creating the workers\’ deposit

accounts and providing ATM cards to the labor broker are not being

charged.

20. (SBU) Also in Khon Kaen, Laboff interviewed two workers recently

returned from Malaysia, where they said they worked in construction

jobs for Hong Zi Construction Co., obtained through paying 80,000

baht fees to a Thai recruiting agency named Sincere International.

(Both workers provided copies of their employment contracts.) The

first worker said he went to Malaysia to help pay off a 140,000 baht

debt he had acquired through working in Taiwan. Once in Malaysia,

he said, he was asked to turn over his passport to his employer and

to sign blank contract documents for the construction firm. He

returned to Thailand in March, 2006, after being refused his first

paycheck. The second worker, at the same firm, said he was also

denied pay, had his passport confiscated, and was only provided food

during a four-month period in which he and fellow workers were

denied access to telephones and worked only intermittently due to

heavy rains. He said he fled the work site in his fifth month and

was subsequently imprisoned by Malaysian immigration authorities

until relatives bailed him out. Lawyers for these two workers said

they were currently working on cases for 70 other workers who were

approached for 1 million baht (USD 25K) to work on drilling sites in

the U.S.

 

21. (SBU) Separately, a visit by Conoff and ICE agent to speak with

a group of returned workers from Nakhon Phanom province confirmed

the 1 million baht fee for workers to work in the U.S. These

workers paid 350,000 baht (USD 9K) up front to local agents in

Thailand to be included in the group and were to pay an additional

650,000 (USD 16K) baht over the next three year\’s to pay off their

debt. Upon arrival in Los Angeles, the workers were met at the

airport by the U.S. company\’s agent who took the workers\’ passports.

After waiting for two weeks, the workers were sent to a farm in

Hawaii, instead of to their authorized job site in Arizona. After

their visa expired several months later, the group was picked up by

DHS/ICE and sent back to Thailand before being able to pay off any

of their loan. Some of this group filed a complaint with the

Ministry of Labor against the Thai agent and got back 300,000 baht

from the Thai agent after agreeing to drop the complaint. Others in

this group did not join the complaint and reportedly paid an

additional 300,000 baht fee to be included in future group going to

the U.S. The Ministry of Labor suspended the Thai agent for a short

period of time, but the suspension was subsequently lifted and this

agent continues to be one of the most active recruiters in Thailand.

 

——————————————

THAI LABOR OFFICIALS: WE\’RE DOING OUR BEST

——————————————

 

22. (SBU) In a meeting with Laboff, the Director of the Overseas

Employment Division of the Ministry of Labor, Supat Gukun, defended

Thai officials\’ responses to accusations of overseas labor

exploitation. Supat, who had just returned from visits to U.S.

labor recruiters in Los Angeles, said he was unaware of significant

existing problems with U.S. companies, and that it was the USG\’s

responsibility to vet job petitions properly when they are filed

with the U.S. Department of Labor. Supat expressed concern about

recent H2A visa denials by Bangkok consular officers: \”We can\’t

understand why you\’d approve a job petition but then deny an H2A

visa,\” he added. He showed Laboff copies of sample worker

registration forms with the Ministry, which he said proved workers

were paying labor recruitment fees within the law\’s limits. Supat

said he had no means to verify whether workers or agents were

truthfully reporting fee payments on the forms, saying the Ministry

could not act where there was no proof of wrongdoing.

 

23. (SBU) Supat said that if workers complained about their

experiences abroad, they could be explained by several factors:

 

— Lack of education and inability to understand

contract language or financial terms.

— Pressure from U.S. unions and Mexican labor groups

opposed to the importation of Thai agricultural

workers.

— Unrealistic worker expectations about salaries.

— Worker discomfort with unusually hot weather and

strenuous conditions in the U.S. South.

— Reliance on informal recruiting agents rather than

registered ones.

 

24. (SBU) Supat said his Ministry went to great lengths to educate

prospective workers about the recruitment process and conditions

they would face abroad, whether in the U.S., Taiwan or elsewhere.

Supat added that foreign labor supply companies brought DVDs to

worker seminars to demonstrate job conditions at various work sites.

He said he had heard of instances where workers in the U.S. were

moved amongst different job sites, but said the workers went along

voluntarily. (Regardless, these moves between jobsites generally

have not been authorized under U.S. law.) In some cases, workers

left their job sites themselves, illegally, having been attracted to

higher paying jobs working in Thai restaurants, he added.

 

25. (SBU) Supat, who had previously been a senior Ministry labor

representative in Taiwan, said that recent problems involving Thai

workers in Taiwan had been resolved. Supat blamed an August 2005

riot of 2,000 Thai workers in Kaohsiung, Taiwan (and a subsequent

work stoppage by 600 workers in March 2006) on a core group of

individuals who had spurred other workers to revolt over lack of

access to television and mobile telephones. He said that the

Ministry was continuing to approve worker petitions for employment

in Taiwan at the same rate as before, and that workers were

responsible for checking with one of 75 labor provincial offices to

obtain the names of registered labor recruitment agencies.

(Comment: Supat made no mention of a Thai parliamentary review in

November 2005 that concluded the rioting Thai workers in Taiwan were

exploited by Thai labor officials as well as Taiwanese employers.

The report said that \”not only senior labor officials were involved,

but some politicians as well,\” but did not disclose names. A Thai

labor official was later removed from his Kaohsiung office under

suspicion of accepting bribes to keep quiet about worker

complaints.)

 

26. (SBU) Supat said workers that have complained about excessive

recruitment fees, or excessive interest on loans to pay for such

fees, were usually going through unregistered companies or informal

networks of unscrupulous individuals. He cited the Ministry\’s

website (www.doe.go.th) devoted to addressing worker complaints,

which had recorded only a 3 percent dissatisfaction rate among

overseas workers. In most cases, follow-up interviews with workers

revealed no proof of malfeasance by the 268 registered labor supply

companies in Thailand, only 100 of which are considered \”active\”.

27. (SBU) Supat said that the Ministry held 5 million baht deposits

from each of the 268 registered labor agencies to serve as reserves

for handling valid compensation claims from workers. He said he

could not recall any recent instance where these deposits were

tapped to provide compensation. Asked to name any punitive measures

at all that the Ministry has taken in response to labor agency

improprieties, Supat said the Ministry had suspended three agencies

within the past year, for periods varying from one to six months,

and had permanently canceled the registration of one company, Siam

Overseas, which had defrauded workers of recruitment fees without

providing jobs (see para 16.) Supat said the Ministry was working

with Siam Overseas to provide compensation to the over 300 workers

affected, but had not yet tapped the company\’s 5 million baht

deposit with the Ministry. Another of the suspended companies is

ACCO, the largest local recruiter for workers to the U.S., which was

suspended after a group of workers did not get their full salary and

were sent back to Thailand after only several months (see para 30.)

 

28. (U) Visits to Thai officials in provincial labor offices yielded

similar views. The town of Udorn, north of Khon Kaen, is described

by Thai officials as the top province for sending workers abroad,

and the evidence is on the town\’s streets as soon as you enter.

Signs advertising labor recruitment services are common,

side-by-side with signs advertising loan services to pay recruitment

fees. Offices advertise loans to pay recruiting fees for work in

Taiwan and Qatar, next door to a recruitment company that advertises

for 3,000 workers wanted by South Korean auto parts and glass

factories.

 

29. (SBU) The head of Udorn\’s provincial employment office said that

Udorn\’s youth have always sought work abroad as a cultural norm, to

follow friends and family and earn money. The excitement of leaving

a small town to work abroad, or in Bangkok, was a large part of the

allure. Recruitment fees were high, he said, but if all went

according to law, the workers still benefited and wouldn\’t keep

migrating if it wasn\’t profitable. The official said that

government regulates recruiting fees closely with licensing

procedures. In cases where excessive fees are charged, there is

often collusion between workers and labor agents, with the workers

actively participating in the subterfuge. The official noted there

were 20 recruitment agencies registered in Udorn, that had sent

2,000 workers during the past month alone to work in destinations

such as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Qatar, and Japan. (Figures

from Khon Kaen\’s provincial labor office show similar destinations,

with worker departures abroad rising from 6,014 in 1999 to a peak of

11,688 in 2001 and falling to 8,206 last year.)

 

30. (SBU) The Udorn official said he had only heard of one

Udorn-based firm sending workers to the U.S., and that recruiting

firms had complained about the practices of one U.S.-based labor

supply company that had been asking \”very high fees\” for the right

to fill farm jobs in the U.S. (Note: Our consular section has

received a letter from the Association of Thai Labor Overseas

stating that this same U.S. company was charging a Thai labor supply

company between 400,000-480,000 baht – USD 10-12K – per job.) The

Udorn official said most Thai companies shied away from

relationships with foreign labor companies selling such services \”to

the highest bidder,\” and referred to the labor recruiting process as

\”an oligopoly\” controlled by a handful of firms that use their

access to job information as a means of boosting recruiting fees.

\”You can solve this problem,\” he said, \”by making job information

available to the general public.\” \”Explain to us,\” he added, \”how

workers can learn of opportunities in the U.S. without having to go

through select middleman companies that know the farms and the

petition process.\”

 

————————————–

Labor Exploitation Becomes Trafficking

————————————–

 

31. (SBU) The range of severity of these labor exploitation cases

varies considerably, and many workers clearly believe the recruiting

debt they experience is outweighed by higher salaries that are

offered by multi-year jobs overseas. At the other end of the

spectrum, however, are those cases that qualify as severe forms of

trafficking – particularly cases where passports are confiscated and

access to communications denied. A number of workers in the U.S.

have recently applied for T visas as victims of trafficking – one

egregious case involving an incident in late 2005 where a group of

Thai workers was offloaded in the Hurricane Katrina disaster zone to

find their own work and resorted to catching wild birds to feed

themselves (reftel). Thai parliamentarians are also probing reports

of trafficking into forced prostitution in Taiwan. The House of

Representatives chairperson of the Thai People\’s Rights Abroad

Subcommittee, MP Kusumalvati Sirikomart, said an October 2005 visit

by her committee to Taiwan found that \”many Thai women decide to

work in massage parlors after incurring debt of as much as 400,000

to 500,000 baht,\” owed to recruiting agents who ostensibly were

placing them in domestic housekeeping jobs. An accompanying MP also

said he had interviewed Thai prostitutes in Taiwan who were

force-fed drugs to keep them awake while servicing ten customers a

day, or up to 1,200 customers for their entire debt period.

 

32. (SBU) Comment: It is difficult to ascertain the scope of a

problem that is kept beneath the surface by many of the actors

involved. It is quite clear, however, that the relative lack of

punitive actions taken against labor recruitment agencies is out of

sync with the number of complaints we have seen about recruiting

abuses, and also reports of trafficking. Some workers in Thailand

are wising up and seeking jobs on their own through self-funded

travel to neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, but

still find it impossible to secure work in the U.S. or other

farther-off places without going through recruiting agents. One

returning worker from Singapore who sat next to our Labor FSN on the

flight to Khon Kaen said \”I once paid 140,000 baht for the right to

work in Singapore. Only later did I realize I could have done it

myself for 30,000 baht. We need to figure out how to do this

elsewhere.\”

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 7:51 am

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