SATTAHIP – September 20, 2012 [PDN]; the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) set up a meeting with six neighboring countries to address the problem of human trafficking. The meeting focused primarily on the fishing industry, but also other types of exploitation, such as prostitutes and beggars from foreign countries.
Chairing the meeting was Pol. Lt. Col. Paisit Sangkhaphong, representing the DSI. The meeting’s moderator was TV news journalist Ms. Thapanee Eadsrichai from channel 3.
Other meeting participants included the director of the fishing association, NGO, the sea police, the Navy, the command unit of subduing for human trade, and related organizations.
Also at the meeting were representatives of the Samaesarn fishing group, in area of Tambon Samaesarn, Amphur Sattahip, Chonburi province.
Mr. Pramote Thowsakul, ex-kamnan of Tambon Samaesarn and the entrepreneur of fishing in area of Tambon Samaesarn, (Sattahip), welcomed the opportunity provided by the DSI to address the problem.
Mr. Pramote said his feeling is that Tambon Samaesarn is an area where many foreign crewmembers on fishing boats are being deceived, beaten, detained, and are often not paid for their work. As a result, Tambon Samaesarn has acquired a bad reputation for human trafficking.
But Mr. Pramote also revealed that the entrepreneurs of fishing boats are not as cruel as how the news reports describe them. The real culprits behind the cruel treatment of foreign workers are the unscrupulous recruiting agents, he said.
When the exploited workers refuse to consent to the illegal working conditions, or do not repay the agents after getting their first wages, often the agents get angry and beat the victims, and also detain them to prevent them from escaping.
When enforcement officers come to make arrests, usually they do not fault the entrepreneur for smuggling the workers, but instead accuse the entrepreneur with illegally employing the foreign workers and giving them a place to live. But then the enforcement officers often accept bribes to overlook the illegal activity, which then continues.
Mr. Pramote said he was ready to cooperate with the government officers in every organization to build a new “Samaesarn Model” to stop the illegal trafficking.
The DSI had set up the meeting to organize and network to protect and to solve the problem of human trade, and ask for cooperation in detection and investigation to subdue human trafficking among the seven countries of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, China, and Malaysia.
The Ministry of Justice, which has assigned the DSI as the entity responsible for subduing human trafficking, has found in its investigation that attempting to arrest the suspects is problematic. Since most of the recruiting agents live in another country or a third-party country, local enforcement officers cannot prosecute the agents at the origin of their crimes.
The meeting between seven countries will serve as an exchange of information of human trafficking, and help set up a network of detection and investigation to work together to arrest suspects in the international human trafficking circuit.
Among the seven countries, Thailand is regarded as the “central market” of exchange for human trafficking, as well as a meeting place and transit corridor for traffickers to send their victims to neighbor countries.
The type of human trafficking most prevalent in Thailand is among fishing boat workers, according to meeting participants. However, sex trafficking is the most severe problem because it also involves the sexual violation of minors. The DSI has sent undercover officers to infiltrate the human trade procession in high-risk areas.
The representatives from the Khong river country that extends through Laos and Cambodia accepted that most of the problem of human trade occurs in Thailand, where group of recruiting agents have deceived victims by offering them work in Thailand restaurants and factories.
But when they arrive in Thailand, many underage Laotian women between ages 15 to 18 were forced to be prostitutes, and many Cambodian children and adults were forced to be beggars. Meeting participants will work together for solutions to protect victims, especially in inspecting the moving of workers between borders.
However, in the year 2015, the ASEAN association agreement will allow more freedom and easing of trade barriers among the Khong River countries of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
It is expected that this greater freedom will also make it easier for human traffickers, and result in even more victims being exploited. So it is necessary to find a way of cooperation between countries along the Khong river to set up measures to handle the problem of human trade that occurs continuously.