Human Trafficking: Thailand’s Porous Borders
The issue of forced migrant labor in Thailand can be heavily attributed to its location. Thailand’s borders include Laos and Cambodia — two deeply impoverished countries — as well as Malaysia, a popular migrant destination. It also falls directly in line with the sea-routes commonly used for smuggling operations in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Ultimately, Thailand is a prime source, destination, and transition country for modern slavery.
In addition to geography, Thailand’s trafficking problems can be due to the excessive political influence of its security services. “In particular the weakness of the Thai political system in tackling the trade can be tied to military interference in the central government, the convergence of corruption with geography in the north and on the southern borders, and the presence of a separatist insurgency in Thailand’s southeastern border provinces.”
On the southeastern border of Thailand, tackling local Islamic terrorist groups frequently takes priority over fighting organized crime. Based on the number of migrant camps found recently, the heavy military and police presence in those areas proves no obstacle to smuggling. Human trafficking routes still exist in Songkhla province, a Thai-Malay area, as well as in its neighboring provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat. “In fact there is widespread social collusion with the people-smuggling trade in many isolated areas, with trafficking groups often able to rely on collaboration with both coastal and border communities for their infrastructure, local camp guards, and supplies.”
Sadly, this includes an area’s authorities as well. In the past, Thai security services and local officials have been taken into custody for helping human trafficking groups and selling fleeing refugees and detained migrants back into slavery.
Bangkok’s initiative to start intercepting smuggling boats created a high profile on human trafficking which led to the discovery of more smuggling camps with even more graves. Many criminal networks across the country have been abandoned or disrupted, but the demand for forced labor will most likely adapt and restart. Longstanding American political pressure is the only reason human trafficking became an issue for the central authorities in Thailand in the first place.
Contingent with Thailand’s preoccupation with designing a new constitution, many people realize that something must be done about human trafficking, but most are wishing that the issue will disappear quickly and quietly.
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Source: The Diplomat