Thailand must do more to combat widespread human trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation, including addressing “deeply-rooted” corruption, a UN envoy said on Friday.
“The implementation of policy and legal framework on human trafficking and the law enforcement are weak and fragmented,” said the United Nations special rapporteur on people trafficking Joy Ngozi Ezeilo.
At a press conference following her 11 day mission to Thailand, Ezeilo acknowledged that progress had been made, but she underlined the need for wide-ranging improvements in initial recommendations ahead of a 2012 report.
She said prosecutions of traffickers remain low, contributing to a culture of “impunity” for those who trade in people.
“Corruption, especially among low-cadre law enforcement officers at provincial and local levels, is deeply rooted,” she said.
“The government should promote zero tolerance to corruption and complicity of public officials with traffickers, and prosecute and adequately punish offenders to dissuade such practices.”
Ezeilo said the underlying causes of trafficking, especially demand for “cheap and exploitative” labour from neighbouring Burma, Laos and Cambodia, “are not being effectively addressed”.
She noted “widespread” sexual exploitation – including child prostitution, pornography and sex tourism – as well as new forms of trafficking for domestic labour, begging, forced marriage and surrogacy.
Forced labour is also growing in agriculture and construction and is “notoriously common” in the fishing industry.
Ezeilo called on Thailand to review its labour and migration laws, recognising the demand for cheap, low skilled labour and to provide “safe migration options” for those entering the country from abroad.
The US State Department has placed Thailand on its human trafficking watchlist for two years running, accusing it of not doing enough to combat trafficking.
It said conservative estimates suggest there are tens of thousands of victims sold into modern-day slavery in Thailand from neighbouring countries.