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05BANGKOK1321 THAILAND TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS/LABOR DEVELOPMENTS

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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 001321

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPT FOR G/TIP, DRL/IL, PRM AND EAP/BCLTV

LABOR FOR ILAB

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ELAB KCRM KWMN PHUM PREF PREL SMIG TH TIP

SUBJECT: THAILAND TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS/LABOR DEVELOPMENTS

 

REF: A. 04 BANGKOK 7573

¶B. BANGKOK 628 AND PREVIOUS

 

¶1. (U) Summary. Senior Royal Thai police (RTP), accompanied

by a post NGO anti-trafficking partner, traveled to Malaysia

to enhance cooperation in countering the increasing

cross-border trafficking of women and children. A

low-ranking Thai policeman was convicted for trafficking a

14-year old girl to Malaysia in 2002. The RTP also arrested

a major trafficker of Burmese men/boys onto commercial

fishing trawlers. Some forced seamen end up marooned on an

isolated Indonesian island. UN agencies based in Bangkok

will advocate a special “amnesty” for illegal Burmese workers

in tsunami-affected provinces. Thai officials denied press

reports that pregnant migrant workers from Burma, Laos and

Cambodia face deportation. A DRL/IL – funded project

encourages a voluntary labor standard designed to help

Thailand claim the reputation of a “clean labor” destination.

End Summary.

 

¶2. Thai Police Investigate Trafficking to Malaysia

——————————————— —

 

(SBU) The Royal Thai police (RTP), in cooperation with the US

NGO International Justice Mission (IJM), completed a

six-month investigation of the trafficking of Thai and

Burmese women and girls to Johor Bahru, Malaysia, near the

border with Singapore. Several former victims provided

information indicating that a single trafficker employed

70-80 women/girls as sex workers, including some who are

underage and/or coerced. Thai, Burmese and Chinese women

(from Yunnan province) are the primary victims. Ethnic Shan

women from Burma are recruited from just across the Thai –

Burma border, and enter Thailand at the northern Mae Sai

crossing. Thai women lured from northern Chiang Mai and

Chiang Rai are promised jobs in Bangkok. Both Burmese and

Thais are brought by van or pick-up truck to the southern

province of Hat Yai, an eight hundred mile journey. Some are

then blindfolded during the onward trip to Johor Bahru. Upon

arrival at a string of karaoke bars and brothels owned by the

Malaysian trafficker, they are informed that they each owe

about USD 1,600. One young Burmese woman took nine months, at

five customers a day, to pay off the debt. On February 16, a

team of senior RTP officials (accompanied by IJM) traveled to

Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru to present their findings to the

Malaysian police’s anti-trafficking unit. The International

Organization for Migration (IOM) in Bangkok has agreed to

assist in the repatriation of any Thai or Burmese victims

discovered in Johor Bahru.

 

¶3. Conviction of Thai Policeman in Trafficking Case

——————————————— —

 

(U) On February 8, a court in southern Songkhla province

sentenced a low-ranking Thai policeman to 10 years in prison

for his part in a trafficking ring which attempted to sell a

14-year old into sexual exploitation. The police lance

corporal, and two others, “purchased” the young Thai girl and

brought her to Malaysia in 2002. A Thai woman was also

sentenced to 16 years for her part in the scheme. Charges

were brought under the Penal Code and the 1997

Anti-Trafficking Act.

 

¶4. Trafficking of Burmese Men/Boys onto Fishing Trawlers

——————————————— ——–

 

(SBU) The Seafarer’s Union of Burma (SUB) reported on

February 16 that a group of ten Burmese males, including

three minors, was confined on a fishing trawler in the port

of Maha Chai, Samut Sakhon province, about 40 miles from

Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. The migrants entered

Thailand illegally four days before. They were promised jobs

in factories by a well-known Burmese smuggler/trafficker, but

were delivered directly to the vessel, and told they were

obligated to work on board for four and a half years in

Indonesian fishing waters. The ethnic Karen men/boys,

reportedly first time migrants to Thailand and easily

intimidated, wished to depart but were controlled by four

guards posted around the boat. Once the trawler left port,

the trafficker was to receive 130,000 baht (USD 3,421) from

the Thai captain. The impressed seamen would have to re-pay

this sum from meager monthly wages. On February 18, post

provided the information to the RTP trafficking in persons

unit, and on the same day police arrested the trafficker and

owner of the vessel. The dragooning of Burmese sailors

appears to occur regularly in Chonburi, Songkhla and Samut

Sakhon provinces on the Gulf of Thailand, and in Ranong on

the Andaman Sea. Surplus or uncooperative seamen are often

stranded on the isolated island of Tual in Indonesia’s Banda

Sea. The SUB estimates the current Burmese population there

at about 2,000. In December, UN officials interviewed

several returnees from Tual, who alleged Indonesian

immigration police complicity in a system of re-trafficking

abandoned Burmese seamen onto other Thai trawlers short of

crews. The men complained of bitter working conditions,

including non-payment of wages and beatings. Some told of

isolated incidents of murders by the captains.

 

¶5. Child Sex Tourism Component in ILEA Training

——————————————–

 

(U) The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), a

joint US – Thai regional training facility in Bangkok,

presented a course between January 31 – February 11 on

“Dealing with Sex Offenders”. Participants included 54

mid-level police and immigration officials from Thailand,

Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia,

Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong S.A.R., and

Indonesia. The training, which received good reviews by

participants, included a component on child sex tourism

conducted by a FBI specialist. The UK government provided

funding for the course.

 

¶6. UN Advocacy on Tsunami-affected Migrants

—————————————-

 

(SBU) A joint study by the Bangkok regional United Nations

(UN) “country team” and the International Organization for

Migration on the plight of Burmese migrants affected by the

tsunami was released on February 7 (Ref B.) The study

 

SIPDIS

concluded that some 7,000 Burmese workers (not including

dependents) were affected, either through loss of life,

health, livelihood or belongings. Little information is

available on the location of thousands of migrants who simply

disappeared after the disaster, although hundreds are

believed to be sheltered in make shift dwellings on hillsides

and in rubber plantations in the six affected southern

provinces. Despite some NGO efforts, food, water and health

care provision for this population remains poor. The UN/IOM

report argues for a moratorium on arrests/deportations of

migrants in affected areas. Personal security of the migrants

must be assured before other problems can be addressed: loss

of employment, replacement of lost work permits, access to

health care, and identifying the dead. The study’s

recommendations, to be presented by the regional UN Resident

Coordinator to the RTG Ministry of Foreign Affairs the week

of February 20, include a special “amnesty” for illegal

Burmese in tsunami-affected provinces. An NGO network

assisting the Burmese reports replacement of work permits is

extremely slow, hampered by difficulties in providing

information to the widely scattered groups, and migrant

anxieties about arrest when contacting RTG authorities. As a

result, only 93 replacement cards had been issued as of

February 14. Employers in the area are anxious to have the

migrants remain to assist in rehabilitation of the fishing

industry, and to fill construction sites in resort areas

damaged by the December 26 tsunami.

 

¶7. Pregnant Migrant Workers to Face Deportation?

———————————————

 

(SBU) In July 2004, the RTG conducted an open registration

for migrants from Burma, Laos and Cambodia already resident

in Thailand. Almost 1.3 million workers and dependents

registered, allowing them a twelve-month period of legal

residence in Thailand to conduct health checks and find

employers with MOL – verified needs. By January, 692,000

workers and dependents had received check-ups, with about 1.5

percent diagnosed with contagious diseases that will force

their deportation. Over 9,000 female workers were found to

be pregnant, and press reports in recent weeks suggested they

would be deported as well. On February 7, the MOL Deputy

Permanent Secretary responded to Laboff concerns by asserting

that “No formal decision had been made – it is only a

suggestion,” to forcibly return the pregnant women. The

suggestion appears to come from the RTG National Security

Council (NSC), the lead agency on a national-level Alien

Labor Management Committee. (The NSC has argued in the past

that the presence of many stateless children poses a

long-term security threat to Thailand.) The National Human

Rights Commission, established under the reformist 1997

Constitution, has also objected to the deportation of

pregnant migrants as a violation of a constitutional

provision that asserts “the human dignity, rights and liberty

of a person are protected.” A plan to have Burmese officials

provide identity documents to the 906,000 registered Burmese

in Thailand is months behind schedule, with little likelihood

of significant progress before the July 2005 expiration of

the program. At that time, migrants who have not been

matched with an employer and provided with ID cards by their

home government are slated for deportation.

 

 

¶8. US Anti-Sweatshop Project

—————————

 

(U) Laboff opened a State/DRL – funded seminar, “Preventing

Abuses in Sweatshops” (PASS), in southern Surat Thani

province on February 1st. Training on the MOL-promoted

voluntary labor code, Thailand Labor Standard 8001, was

provided to mid-level labor officials from fourteen southern

provinces. TLS 8001 (closely based on its namesake, the

international SAI 8000 voluntary code) is a unique effort by

the RTG to establish Thailand as a “clean labor” destination

for foreign buyers and investors. Since 2003, some 320

factories in Thailand have been certified under TLS 8001.

Implemented by the Solidarity Center, the PASS project has

trained 382 workers, managers and MOL officials on TLS 8001

standards and monitoring throughout the country since

November 2004. Other PASS activities include training

legally mandated worker safety committees in various aspects

of occupational safety and health (OSH) in larger automobile,

chemical and electrical appliance industries. Those

committees will then train the workers. Next step: expanding

OSH training to smaller enterprises, those with less than 50

workers, where most sweatshop conditions are found. In

April, the PASS project will open a legal aid office in the

Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot, where tens of thousands of

migrants work in exploitative conditions in textile, garment

and jewelry factories. The office will provide assistance to

registered migrants who wish to make complaints (such as

unpaid minimum wages) under the 1998 Labor Protection Act.

 

 

 

 

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

August 26, 2011 at 5:34 am

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