However, labour experts have expressed scepticism about the measures. The ILO’s comments followed a recent government announcement that they were getting serious about tackling human trafficking, in an effort to move Thailand up from Tier 3, the lowest rank, of the US Trafficking in Persons Report this year.
The country was downgraded from Tier 2 last year largely as a result of human trafficking in Thailand’s fisheries industry that relies heavily on migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
The Thai administration claims it has been amending legislation, increasing protection for workers, prosecuting traffickers and registering undocumented workers as part of its efforts to get upgraded.
Some retailers in the European Union and the US have boycotted products from Thai fisheries as a result of the downgrade and have threatened further action if improvements are not made.
Mr Max Tunon, Senior Programme Officer for the ILO Asia and Pacific Office, said he had noted an “increased commitment” from the Thai administration in fighting human trafficking.
He said the ILO was particularly pleased to see the Thai Labour Ministry adopting regulations aimed at protecting workers in the fisheries industry. These regulations took effect on December 30 last year.
“The real challenge, however, will be to ensure the laws and regulations are enforced,” Mr Tunon said.
The ILO will lend its support to implementing these rules and continue to work will all stakeholders.
According to Mr Tunon, the best way to guarantee law enforcement is to have efficient inspection and complaint systems.
The ILO is carrying out training programmes for labour inspectors, he said. Last year, it organised training in Thailand’s coastal provinces, where trafficking is most common.
The ILO is also working with the Thai Labour Ministry to improve complaint mechanisms, offering channels through which victims and witnesses can report rights violations, Mr Tunon said.
Academics and labour experts agreed that drafting news laws or making amendments to existing ones will not solve human trafficking as there is no proper enforcement.
Mr Narong Petprasert, a Chulalongkorn University lecturer in economics, claimed he was sceptical about the measures taken by the Thai government over the last six months to tackle trafficking, saying they only acted because they were forced to do so by foreign governments.
When this pressure eases, the efforts to tackle the problem will also ease, he said.
Courtesy: Bangkok Post