Thailand-Laos sign labor pact as part of anti-trafficking effort

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The Prime Ministers of Thailand and Laos oversaw the signing of several bilateral agreements last week in Bangkok including a memorandum of understanding on labor cooperation that will serve as another component of Thailand’s campaign to end human trafficking.

The agreement demonstrated that Thailand is sustaining its anti-trafficking efforts and continually striving to improve its response to the problem even though it has already received an improved ranking by the United States Department of State two weeks ago in its annual global report on trafficking in persons.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Lao People’s Democratic Republic Premier Thongloun Sisoulith witnessed the signing of the agreement on labor cooperation at Government House in Bangkok after reviewing an honor guard to mark the state visit. Minister of Labor Sirichai Distakul and his Lao counterpart Khampheng Saysompheng actually signed the documents.

The agreement included provisions on worker skill development, social benefits for Lao workers in Thailand, and academic cooperation. The two prime ministers also discussed other issues including regional connectivity, infrastructure development, bilateral trade and investment, and agreed to broaden cooperation on cross-border tourism.

The Thai government has been working with the governments of Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia to formalize and regularize migration of laborers into Thailand so that people will not turn to or be ensnared by traffickers.

Last month, Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi also visited Thailand, met with Prime Minister Prayut and signed a memorandum of understanding on labor migration and cooperation in a bid to work with Thailand and end human trafficking.

Thailand signed agreements with Cambodia on labor cooperation and migration in December 2015, and officials from both countries have continued to meet to fine tune the response and close any loopholes that lead to trafficking.

Thailand’s Ministry of Labor said there are 128,388 registered workers from Laos in Thailand. Only 178 of them, however, are skilled laborers, and 2,742 are working in fishery and seafood processing factories.