SAMUTPRAKARN, July 7 (Bernama) — Thailand is addressing its foreign labour issue by setting up more one-stop service centres to register illegal migrant workers in the provinces and establishing close cooperation with its neighbours Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.Today, it opened a centreinSamutprakarn province and will set up such centres in at least six more major provinces to register illegal migrant workers in order to address the human trafficking problem.Samutprakarn governor,PinitHarnpanit said the centre which opened in the province today expected to register about 1,200 workers daily or about 50,000 illegal migrant workers for the period from today until Aug 5.Speaking at a press conference, he estimated that 30,000 workers from Myanmar, 15,000 from Cambodia and 5,000 from Laos would register during the period.
The registration will enable the workers to have a better quality of life with services such as welfare and other privileges.
The seven provinces chosen as locations for the service centres are major economic areas with several industrial estates and tourist attractions.
Apart from Samutprakarn (located near Bangkok), the other provinces are Chacheong-Sao, Chonburi, Rayong (in eastern part of Thailand), Ayuthaya (central Thailand), and Suratthani and Songkhla (southern Thailand).
Previously, similar centres were set up at four border locations between Thailand and Cambodia, and in Samutsakorn province (central Thailand), which is known for its fishery and frozen food industry.
Thailand has been quick to address the problem of illegal foreign workers in the country after concern was expressed in the US report on Trafficking in Persons recently.
Due to what was perceived as a serious problem, it was downgraded to Tier III in the report, and thus facing possible sanctions by the US that could have an affect on Thailand’s exports.
To show its seriousness in addressing the issue and getting the cooperation of the major sources of those foreign labour, Thailand’s authorities invited top diplomats from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos to visit the centre in Samutprakarn.
Ambassador Bounkham of Laos, ambassador Eat Sophea of Cambodia and ambassador U Win Maung of Myanmar visited the centre today.
Bounkham praised and thanked the Thai military junta for setting up the centre which undertakes registration in only 45 minutes.
He said the centre could also prevent many problems such as human trafficking and abuse or taking advantage of workers.
Ambassador Eat Sophea said she was confident the centre would prevent labour smuggling as well.
Meanwhile, ambassador U Win Maung called on employers and Myanmar workers to register at the centre for their own interest.
The Obama administration downgraded Thailand and Malaysia to the lowest possible rating in an annual report on combating modern slavery while lifting China and Sudan from that status to a “watch list.”
Men, women, and children in Thailand, most from neighboring countries, are “forced, coerced, or defrauded” into labor in fishing-related industries, garment production, factories and brothels, according to the State Department report released today.
More than 20 million people worldwide are trapped in some form of slavery, including women confined in brothels or as domestic workers, boys forced to sell themselves on the street and men compelled to work on fishing boats, the U.S. said.
The report serves as “a road map” to “confront the scourge of trafficking,” Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in the introduction.
China and Sudan are among eight countries elevated from the lowest of the three-tier ranking, while at least four countries, including Thailand and Malaysia, were demoted to the lowest rung. According to the State Department, countries on the lowest tier may be subject to certain sanctions, including the withholding or withdrawal of non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance.
The U.S. had given Thailand a waiver from a downgrade for the last two years while it worked on improvements. This year, it found Thailand didn’t meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
“The government demonstrated few efforts to address these trafficking crimes,” the State Department said in the report. “It systematically failed to investigate, prosecute, and convict ship owners and captains for extracting forced labor from migrant workers, or officials who may be complicit in these crimes.”
Thailand, which has been wracked by political upheaval and a military coup, improved its anti-trafficking data collection and convicted 225 traffickers, according to the report. Those efforts were described as “insufficient” given the size of the problem and the involvement of corrupt Thai civilian and military officials facilitating trafficking for sex and for labor on fishing vessels.
“The government did not hold ship owners, captains, or complicit government officials criminally accountable for labor trafficking in the commercial fishing industry,” the U.S. said.
Songsak Saicheua, director-general of the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a June 16 news conference that the country is working to combat trafficking.
“This is our national priority, our national goal and national agenda,” he said. Thailand will “go ahead with even more intensified efforts to combat human trafficking, to get rid or significantly reduce the use of forced labor and so on.”
China is also a major source, destination, and transit country for people subjected to forced labor or sex work, the U.S. report said.
China showed improvement by eliminating a decades-old program called “reform through labor,” which required detainees to work for as many as four years making bricks, building roads, or toiling in factories or mines, according to the report.
In Sudan, where children were recruited as soldiers and forced into prostitution, the country didn’t meet minimum standards for eliminating trafficking, according to the report. Even so, the country is “making significant efforts to do so,” it said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at email@example.com
“Most of the world’s refugees – 86 per cent — live in the developing world, compared to 70 per cent 10 years ago. Most of these countries have kept their doors open to people in search of safety, and have shown a generosity that is often well beyond their means. I appeal to all Member States and our partners in civil society to do their utmost to support the nations and communities that have welcomed the forcibly displaced into their midst..”
Kosovar refugees fleeing their homeland on 01 March 1999
UN Photo/UNHCR/R LeMoyne
For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Weeks. One of the most widespread is Africa Refugee Day, which is celebrated on 20 June in several countries.
GENEVA — The number of people displaced by violent conflict hit the highest level since World War II at the end of 2013, the head of the United Nations refugee agency, António Guterres, said in a report released on Friday, warning, “Peace is dangerously in deficit.”
Pushed up dramatically by the war in Syria, the total number of people displaced by violence reached more than 51 million at the end of 2013, according to the agency’s annual Global Trends report. This included 33.3 million people who fled violence but remained in their own country and 16.7 million refugees who fled to neighboring countries, it said.
“We are not facing an increasing trend, we are really facing a quantum leap,” Mr. Guterres told reporters in Geneva, noting that close to 11 million people were newly displaced in 2013. Half the world’s population of displaced people are children, he added, the highest level in a decade.
“There is no humanitarian response able to solve the problems of so many people,” he warned. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to find the capacity and resources to deal with so many people in such tragic circumstances.”
Syrian children at a refugee camp in eastern Lebanon on Thursday.Credit Bilal Hussein/Associated Press
The number of refugees who had fled across borders by the end of 2013 was a fraction of the tens of millions of refugees left at the end of World War II and lower even than in 1993, when conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Mozambique swelled the global refugee population to over 16 million, refugee agency records show.
But when combined with those fleeing to other places within their own countries to escape violence, the total number of displaced people reached a level unprecedented since the war, said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the refugee agency.
The agency looked at records from the wars in Korea, the Middle East, Vietnam and southern Asia and found that “none had comparable levels of displacement” with what the agency is now reporting, Mr. Edwards said.
Alexander Betts, a professor of refugee studies at Oxford University, said in a telephone interview, “It’s certainly an unprecedented number since the end of World War II.” He added that the total reflected shifts in the patterns of conflict and in counting methodologies. In the postwar and Cold War years, when conflicts were largely between states, international agencies counted as refugees only those fleeing across borders.
Internally displaced populations were not counted until the early 1990s, when the United Nations refugee agency recognized them as an area of concern. Until 2005, the number of internally displaced hovered around the five million mark, agency records show. But it has risen dramatically with a sharp escalation of internal insurgencies in this century.
Africa, which with Syria accounts for most of the world’s internally displaced, had more continuing conflicts in 2012 than at any other time since World War II, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center in Geneva reported last year. The number more than doubled in four years, from 15 million people in 2009 to more than 33 million in 2013.
Conflicts this year in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ukraine and now Iraq threaten to push levels of displacement even higher by the end of 2014, Mr. Guterres said.
“The international community today has very limited capacity to prevent conflicts and to find timely solutions,” Mr. Guterres said. “We see the Security Council paralyzed in many crucial crises.”
To make matters worse, the consequences of past conflicts “never seem to die,” Mr. Guterres said. Over six million people have been in exile for five years or more, and the number of refugees returning to their countries in 2013, 414,000, was one of the lowest in years, the refugee agency reported. Just 98,400 people were taken in for resettlement by other countries.
In addition to refugees, more than 1.1 million people applied for asylum in 2013, the highest number in a decade, Mr. Guterres reported.
He was quick to puncture any illusion that developed countries of the North were hosting most of the world’s refugees, despite mounting anxiety in Western countries over the flow of migrants to their shores.
“The truth is that 86 percent of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries,” he said, a much higher proportion than 10 years ago. “The trend is not only to have more and more refugees but more and more refugees in the developing world.”
HONG KONG — Thailand and Malaysia are among the two dozen countries doing the least to fight human trafficking, according to a State Department report released Friday, a finding that could lead to economic and diplomatic penalties.
The downgrade to so-called Tier 3 status, the lowest ranking, places the Southeast Asian countries alongside North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe in the eyes of the State Department, which publishes an annual report assessing efforts by the world’s governments to combat human trafficking. Thailand now ranks below its neighbor Myanmar, a former Tier 3 country whose rating has improved since it began moving toward democracy in recent years.
Recent reports by The Guardian and others have described the use of forced labor in Thailand’s seafood industry, often involving complicity on the part of Thai officials. In a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles last year, Reuters reported that Thai officials had been involved in selling Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar to human-trafficking rings, which sometimes sold them into servitude on fishing boats. The Thai Navy, some of whose personnel were implicated, has filed a lawsuit accusing two journalists of criminal defamation for publishing an excerpt from one of the Reuters articles.
This week, a British researcher, Andy Hall, was detained by a Thai court and had his passport confiscated in connection with criminal defamation charges brought by a Thai food company. Mr. Hall, who was freed on bail, had spoken to Al Jazeera about abusive treatment of migrant workers by the company, Natural Fruit, which Mr. Hall had documented for a Finnish nongovernmental organization. The State Department report calls for such prosecutions of journalists and researchers to cease.
In Malaysia, the report said, many migrant workers are exploited and subjected to practices associated with forced labor, including restrictions on movement, wage fraud, passport confiscation and fees imposed by recruitment agents or employers. Many foreign women recruited for ostensibly legal work in Malaysia are subsequently coerced into prostitution, the report said.
Because both Thailand and Malaysia had been in a Tier 2 “watch list” category for four consecutive years, both were due for automatic downgrades to Tier 3 this year unless the State Department judged that they had made significant strides in addressing their trafficking problems.
China, which was downgraded to Tier 3 status a year ago, was moved back up a level, to the Tier 2 watch list, in the new report.
Thailand has recently argued that its efforts have improved enough for it to avoid a downgrade. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a news release this week that it had substantially more trafficking-related investigations, prosecutions and convictions last year than in 2012. Vijavat Isarabhakdi, the Thai ambassador to the United States, said in the release that Thailand was “committed to eliminating this inhumane exploitation.”
Luis C. deBaca, ambassador at large at the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said Thailand had indeed shown some improvement, mainly in sex-trafficking cases. But very little progress has been made in prosecuting the widely documented abuses of migrant workers and official complicity in them, he said.
“There’s a reason why so many folks are looking at the abuses in the migrant population there over the last years,” Mr. deBaca said. “That’s an area that needs more policing, more enforcement.”
Mr. deBaca said it was too early to judge what Thailand’s military coup last month would mean for the country’s human-trafficking problem. The junta has said it will address the issue of undocumented workers in Thailand, including forced labor, but it has denied engaging in a violent crackdown on illegal migrants, fears of which have apparently prompted hundreds of thousands of Cambodian workers to leave the country since last week.
A Tier 3 designation by the State Department does not automatically result in penalties, but the United States may withhold some forms of aid and cultural exchange, or oppose some kinds of assistance from international bodies like the International Monetary Fund.
Phil Robertson, the Bangkok-based deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the annual report was a motivating factor for governments in the region less because of the potential for sanctions than because of the embarrassment of “being grouped into the worst of the worst.”
The United States yesterday blacklisted Thailand and Malaysia for failing to meet its minimum standards in fighting human trafficking, a move that could strain relations with the two countries.
The US State Department, however, improved its rating of China, citing Beijing’s steps to abolish labour camps.
Secretary of State John Kerry launched the annual US assessment of how 188 governments have performed in fighting the flesh trade and other forms of exploitative labour.
Thailand had mounted a campaign to prevent a downgrade, which could hurt its seafood industry, for which the US is a key market. The Thai ambassador to the US Vijavat Isarabhakdi expressed disappointment with the downgrade, saying the report did not recognise “our vigorous, government-wide efforts that yielded unprecedented progress and concrete results”.
The “Trafficking in Persons Report” is based on the actions governments take, rather than the scale of the problem in their country. “There cannot be impunity for those who traffic in human beings. It must end,” Kerry said, describing it as slavery in the 21st century and an illicit business generating annual profits of US$150 billion.
Thailand and Malaysia are among 23 countries to receive the lowest ranking, “tier three”, including Iran, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
China, put on tier three last year, was elevated to a watch list.
US President Barack Obama now has 90 days to determine whether to apply sanctions against tier three governments.
The report notes Thai civilian and military officials reportedly profited from the smuggling of minority Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and their sale into forced labour on fishing vessels.
The US contended that anti-trafficking law-enforcement efforts in Malaysia had decreased, with less investigations and convictions last year than in 2012.
Migrant workers on palm-oil plantations, construction sites, textile factories and in homes as domestic helpers faced wage fraud and restrictions on their movement, the report said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Thailand, Malaysia on trafficking blacklist
Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Yury Fedotov. Photo: UN Information Service, Vienna
5 December 2012 – Due to its unique position in the Greater Mekong region and its shared borders with five countries, Laos is “extremely vulnerable” to the trafficking of people, illicit drugs and commodities by organized crime groups, a senior United Nations official said today.
“While economic growth and regional integration bring many positives such as the increased mobility of goods, services, people and money, they also provide opportunities for transnational organized crime to expand, threaten human security and challenge the rule of law,” said the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, during a visit to the country.
Mr. Fedotov stressed that in spite of its economic reforms, economic growth and efforts to combat corruption, Laos is at risk of trafficking because of its shared borders with Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.
“Transnational organized criminal syndicates traffic in illicit drugs, children, women and men, counterfeit products and fake medicines. But they also play a role in illicit resource extraction including protected natural resources, timber, fish and other wildlife. These syndicates represent a threat to public health and to society’s well-being,” he added.
During his visit, Mr. Fedotov met with senior officials, including Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, and reiterated UNODC’s support for Government efforts to reduce illicit opium poppy cultivation, to increase food security, to develop sustainable livelihoods in former opium-growing areas, and to fight organized crime, corruption, terrorism, and the trafficking of people and sexual exploitation of minors.
He also visited a centre housing women and children who had been victimized by human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual exploitation, and commended police and prosecutors for focusing on victims and their human rights.
“We need more such shelters at a time when many of those in society are being victimized in this way,” he said.
Mr. Fedotov also urged support for Project Childhood, an initiative to combat the sexual exploitation of children – mainly in the travel and tourism sectors – within the Greater Mekong subregion. The project is currently active in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam. UNODC is involved in the project, which focuses on prevention and protection, by strengthening law enforcement capacity to identify, arrest and prosecute travelling child sex offenders.