ILO welcomes drive to end trafficking

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Tuesday welcomed government efforts to tackle human trafficking as “a step in the right direction”.

Narong claims efforts are only for show

Published: 14/01/2015 at 06:23 AM

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Tuesday welcomed government efforts to tackle human trafficking as “a step in the right direction”.

However, labour experts have expressed scepticism about the measures.

The ILO’s comments followed a recent government push to move Thailand up from Tier 3 (the lowest rank) of the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report this year.

The country was downgraded from Tier 2 last year largely as a result of human trafficking in the fisheries industry.

The administration claims it has been amending legislation, increasing protection for workers, prosecuting traffickers and registering undocumented workers as part of its efforts to get upgraded.

Some retailers in the European Union and the US have boycotted products from Thai fisheries as a result of the downgrade and have threatened further action if improvements are not made.

Max Tunon, Senior Programme Officer for the ILO Asia and Pacific Office, said he had noted an “increased commitment” from the Thai administration to fighting human trafficking.

He said the ILO was particularly pleased to see the Labour Ministry adopting regulations aimed at protecting workers in the fisheries industry. These regulations took effect on Dec 30 last year.

“The real challenge, however, will be to ensure the laws and regulations are enforced,” Mr Tunon said.

The ILO will lend its support to implementing these rules and continue to work will all stakeholders.

According to Mr Tunon, the best way to guarantee law enforcement is to have efficient inspection and complaint systems.

The ILO is carrying out training programmes for labour inspectors, he said. Last year, it organised training in Thailand’s coastal provinces, where trafficking is most common.

The ILO is also working with the Labour Ministry to improve complaint mechanisms, Mr Tunon said.

The state should offer channels through which victims and witnesses can report rights violations to authorities.

Academics and labour experts agreed that drafting new laws or making amendments to existing ones will not solve human trafficking if there is no proper enforcement, which is needed on a long-term basis.

Narong Petprasert, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of economics, is sceptical about measures taken by the government in the past six months to combat trafficking.

“The administration has stepped up efforts to tackle trafficking because we were pressured to do so by foreign governments and institutions,” he said.

Mr Narong fears that once this pressure eases off, any progress will be undone.

Thailand’s failure to suppress trafficking is due to the fact that policies are not implemented continuously, he said.

He suggested that workers join or form trade unions to solve the problem once and for all.

“No one can protect workers’ rights more than the workers themselves,” he said, explaining that human trafficking victims are not necessarily unregistered migrant workers, but Thais as well.

“The Labour Ministry and the government should encourage employees to strengthen themselves collectively and defend their rights,” he added.

“Thai society is too reliant on state agencies and the administration,” Mr Narong said.

“When it comes to tackling problems, there is no efficiency.”

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Writer: Ariane Kupferman-Sutthavong