Experts slam flaw in trafficking law
Anti-human trafficking legislation has failed to protect migrants who pay trafficking gangs to smuggle them into Thailand illegally, human rights activists say.
- Published: 19/03/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: news
In most cases, authorities have been unable to use the law to convict suspected human traffickers, Krisada Sanyadee, of the Sathian Koses-Nakha Prateep Foundation's Andaman ethnic coordination programme, said.
The key flaw in the legislation is its definition of "human trafficking", he said. The law does not cover cases in which the victims have willingly paid traffickers to get them into Thailand, he told a human trafficking seminar yesterday.
"The methods used by human traffickers are changing, and even though a large number of suspects have been arrested, only a very small number have been punished," Mr Krisada said.
Because most migrants are not forced into entering Thailand illegally, the current legislation offers them no protection and limited grounds on which to convict the smugglers who bring them here, he said. The smugglers can be charged only with illegal entry, but not with human trafficking.
As a result, the response of Thai authorities has simply been to push boatloads of illegal migrants back out to sea, he said.
This approach has driven up the prices charged by smugglers and made the business more lucrative, Nuszer Ajwarin, a member of the Lawyers Council of Thailand's sub-committee on human rights who specialises in stateless and migrant labourers, said.
Many migrants were willing to pay the higher rate, sometimes even making repeated attempts to enter Thailand in search of a better life or to flee persecution in their native countries, he said.
The experts cited several cases to highlight the lack of legal measures to directly protect migrants who voluntarily enter Thailand illegally.
Among the cases cited was the discovery of 54 dead bodies inside a shipping container in April 2008. The 54 migrants had suffocated while en route to Phuket to work illegally as labourers.
The recent detentions of Rohingya migrants smuggled into Thailand were also discussed.
State agencies are aware of the human trafficking situation, but have taken no action to amend the legislation to bring traffickers to justice, Thanapalapol Anupan, an officer of the International Organisation for Migration, said.
About the author
- Writer: Penchan Charoensuthipan
- Position: Reporter