Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin announced that the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has opened a center to investigate state officials suspected of being involved in human trafficking.
The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Center represents a key effort to achieve the government’s goal of elevating the country from Tier 2 to Tier 1 in five years.
Each year, the United States Department of State publishes the TIP report. According to the latest report released last month, Thailand has moved up to Tier 2.
The TIP report said the government of Thailand is making significant efforts to eliminate trafficking, despite not fully meeting the minimum standards.
One of the 14 points identified as areas where Thailand could do better to thwart human trafficking was to increase law enforcement, prosecutions, and convictions, particularly in forced labor cases.
According to Mr Somsak, the center has already brought cases against officials receiving kickbacks for ignoring human trafficking gangs operating karaoke bars in Chiang Rai and Kanchanaburi.
According to the minister, the centre is investigating many more officials.
In addition, a second center is operating to provide shelter and rehabilitation to victims of human trafficking.
In the past five years, DSI’s Bureau of Human Trafficking Crime has closed 60 cases in which state officials were also suspects. Mr Somsak said 20 trafficking cases are still being investigated.
Human Trafficking in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai province, which shares a border with Laos PDR and Myanmar, is a common site of irregular migration since Thailand is by far the richest country in the Mekong region.
According to UN-ACT, foreign migrants, ethnic minorities, and stateless persons in Thailand are at the greatest risk of being trafficked, because they are largely invisible.
Chiang Rai’s Center for Girls pointed out in a recent blog post, traffickers often lure their victims in with what begins as voluntary migration, with false promises of a high-income job, stability, education, or a loving connection.
Another scenario is when boyfriends, friends, neighbors, or even parents sell their children into human trafficking.
Human Trafficking victims are subjected to many human rights violations once they are integrated into trafficking circles, including physical and sexual violence, threats of harm, restrictions on movement, withholding of identification and work documents, debt bondage, illegal salary deductions, and unreasonable working hours.
In partnership with the Mekong Child Rights Protection Centre, the Center for Girls aims to educate and protect the men, women, and children in Chiang Rai province who are most vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.