Lao victims will testify against trafficker
Thai police have succeeded in gaining the trust and cooperation of 13 trafficked migrant workers from Laos who said they are now willing to testify against a Thai bank executive who allegedly kept them in slave-like conditions, in a case that demonstrates Thailand’s improved protections for victims of trafficking.
The case of the 13 migrants from Laos shocked most Thais because of the harsh conditions the migrants were subjected to and the revelation that their alleged tormentor is a mid-level executive at a state-run bank. The common image of a trafficker is one of a hardened gang member or a member of an organized crime syndicate. But those who participate in trafficking or modern-day slavery can fall outside those stereotypes, and so can go unsuspected by neighbors and society.
The case also provides clear evidence that Thailand is addressing criticisms of its anti-trafficking efforts contained in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report issued by the United States Department of State. The report urged Thailand to provide better protections for victims and witnesses, and more care and rehabilitation for victims. Thai police have admitted that traffickers have successfully intimidated witnesses in some cases, making it almost impossible to prosecute and convict. By nature, victims tend to distrust police and state officials because of their status as illegal migrants.
The Thai public became aware of the case on August 22, when police raided a pig farm in Nakhon Pathom province about an hour’s drive west of Bangkok. Two victims had escaped from the farm and sought help from police. Police found 13 migrants on the farm being kept in cages with no toilet facilities. All had said they were being kept against their will, forced to work for no pay, and were often beaten by those holding them.
The owner of the farm was identified as a manager of a Krung Thai Bank branch in Nakhon Pathom. Police arrested the banker and he faces charges of human trafficking and detaining, assaulting, and giving shelter to illegal immigrant workers. He denied all charges and was released on $14,000 bail, Thai media reported.
Thailand recently signed several agreements with the government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to jointly fight human trafficking, as many Lao citizens seek work in neighboring Thailand because of its stronger economy and higher pay scales. Unfortunately, some seeking jobs in Thailand fall into the hands of unscrupulous jobs brokers who work with human trafficking gangs.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org
Thailand Focus September 8, 2015
Having trouble reading this email? View it on your browser.