Cablegate: Thailand Strengthens Labor Trafficking Guidelines, Gains

DE RUEHBK #1063/01 0941025
P 031025Z APR 08






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1. (U) Summary: Thai Ministry of Labor officials laid out a series
of operational guidelines for handling future labor trafficking
cases, drawing from recent TIP cases involving exploitation in the
fishing and seafood processing industries. The guidelines grant
immunity to TIP victims from prosecution arising from their possible
involvement in immigration or prostitution crimes, among others.
They also grant migrant TIP victims temporary residence in Thailand
pending resolution of criminal or civil court cases against the
traffickers. Separately, NGOs generally praised the Thai police's
handling of the latest shrimp factory raid on March 10, and provided
authorities with a list of lessons learned and improvements for
future anti-TIP operations involving labor exploitation. End

2. (U) Thai Ministry of Labor (MOL) officials announced a series of
operational guidelines on April 2 to govern future labor trafficking
investigations and formalize the MOL's role in multidisciplinary
teams responding to TIP cases. The guidelines were discussed at a
special conference convened by the Chair of Thailand National
Anti-Trafficking Committee, Dr. Saisuree Chutikul, with financial
support from the International Labor Organization (ILO).

3. (U) Dr. Saisuree, who has long been critical of the MOL's slow
pace in coordinating with other RTG offices on TIP cases, praised
the recently-appointed Deputy Permanent Secretary, Nakorn
Silpa-Archa, for his role in giving labor trafficking a greater
priority within his Ministry. Silpa-Archa cited the need to address
TIP as a basic human rights concern for both Thai workers going
abroad and migrant workers entering into Thailand. Dr. Saisuree
placed special emphasis on portions of the USG's 2007
Trafficking-in-Persons Report that emphasized the role of the
seafood processing and fishing industries in the trafficking of
Burmese laborers.

4. (U) The operational guidelines themselves lay out a series of
procedures for labor officials to take, in conjunction with the
police, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security
(MSDHS), and other ministries to ensure that TIP victims are
accorded appropriate protection under the new anti-trafficking law
to take effect June, 2008. The guidelines require MOL officials to
guarantee the protection of children of trafficked workers, who
should not be separated from family members who are sheltered or in
the interview process, and to treat stateless non-Thai residents
(such as hill tribe members) as if they are Thai citizens.

5. (U) In a further significant development, the guidelines prevent
law enforcement authorities from charging TIP victims with any crime
relating to their immigration status, their efforts to obtain work
illegally, or their involvement in prostitution. Authorities are
also required to give TIP victims temporary residence in Thailand if
they are witnesses in future court cases against the traffickers or
are awaiting the awarding of civil penalties. These provisions were
created, MOL officials said, to prevent TIP victims from being
harassed or threatened with prosecution, and to ensure their
cooperation in criminal or civil actions against traffickers. (Note:
Some of these guidelines were met with dismay from lower-level MOL
and police officials, who cited "security" implications of granting
immunity to migrants who have violated, or have the intention to
violate, Thai laws.)

6. (SBU) Dr. Saisuree told Laboff after the conference that she
recognized some of the other procedures might be viewed as lacking
in substance. For example, there is no authority for labor
inspectors or police to immediately shut down factories or other
commercial establishments suspected of TIP transgressions.
Furthermore, there were no clear guidelines for police or
prosecutors to collect evidence to bring labor TIP cases to trial.
However, she said it marked a beginning in RTG efforts to secure
greater cooperation from MOL officials who have until recently
trailed their counterparts in MSDHS in recognizing the labor
component in trafficking cases. She added that guidance for police
and prosecutors would be forthcoming in a series of nationwide
training seminars based on the new anti-TIP law.

7. (SBU) Dr. Saisuree and Deputy PermSec Silpa-Archa also told
Laboff that while they viewed fisheries TIP cases - involving boys
and men trafficked onto fishing vessels - as among the worst TIP
situations possible, they were encountering difficulties in recent
cases in tracking the registrations of vessels in international
waters. In these cases, the ownership of certain vessels could not
be established, or Thai law did not recognize crimes committed on
non-Thai registered ships that were out of Thai ports longer than
one year. They requested assistance in learning from USG experience
on prosecuting TIP cases on the high seas.

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8. (U) The conference came as the MOL and Thai NGOs take stock of
lessons learned from the latest shrimp factory raid on March 10
(reftel). That raid uncovered 73 Burmese migrant workers at the
Anoma factory in Samut Sakhon who were classified as TIP victims due
to their confinement on the premises and working conditions that did
not meet Thai labor standards on wages, work hours, or health
conditions. Another 35 children, under 15 years old, were also
found at the premises, although the number of them who actually
worked remains unclear.

9. (U) The Labor Rights Protection Network (LPN) in Samut Sakhon,
one of the principal NGOs involved in the raid, stated that the raid
and its outcome complied with "best practices" for police,
government and NGO cooperation that were established after the Ranya
Paew factory raid in 2006. Staff at another NGO, FACE, added that
they were satisfied with the police's handling of male TIP victims,
who were given police protection as "witnesses to trafficking
crimes" despite the fact that the new TIP law allowing men to be
classified as victims will not formally go into effect until this
June. Specific improvements noted by LPN and FACE in the recent
raid included the following:

-- The raid was well organized with planning meetings amongst NGOs
and 10 different government ministries or law enforcement agencies,
with their tasks clearly delineated in advance.

-- Police and social workers separated factory workers from their
employers prior to conducting interviews to determine their status.

-- The police and government agencies brought with them 12
Burmese-speaking interpreters to converse with the workers.

-- Interviews were conducted after workers had been removed to a
local police station during the daytime, avoiding the situation in
Ranya Paew where workers were questioned well into the night, in
full view of their employers who were harassing or intimidating

-- Police determined through the interviews that 38 workers had been
moved to the Anoma factory illegally and against their will by labor
brokers acting on behalf of another factory. These workers were
immediately classified as TIP victims.

-- Criminal charges were filed against the employers within 24 hours
by the Thai Region 7 police officers who led the raid.

10. (U) The NGOs noted that the level of employee abuse in the Anoma
case did not match that found in the Ranya Paew case. The employers
complied with police requests to cease communicating with their
workers during the interview process. There was no evidence of
physical abuse, or beatings, found amongst the workers (although
evidence of poor health conditions was observed). There were no
firearms found on the premises, and the employers did not appear, in
the words of one NGO worker, to be "mafia-type" captors who employed
physical means of intimidation.

11. (U) NGO volunteers said they confirmed that many of the workers
(but not all) considered themselves confined to the factory due to
locked doors and signs which prohibited their exit from the
premises. A proportion of the workers were allowed to leave the
premises periodically for grocery shopping and said they did not
consider themselves confined. According to FACE, the confined
workers were more likely to have been brought to the factory by
labor brokers who were still owed a recruitment fee by the owners.
Over 75 of the approximately 300 workers were legally registered and
opted to remain at the factory voluntarily.

12. (SBU) LPN and FACE raised a series of additional concerns that
they hope will be addressed in future police anti-TIP operations,

-- Some unregistered workers may have been screened too quickly and
dismissed as non-TIP victims, and were taken immediately to police
immigration centers. This point is still in dispute due to
confusion over the outcome of the Burmese-language interviews. The
Thai Region 7 police insist that these workers freely admitted they
were not confined to the factory premises and were seeking work

-- These unregistered workers were removed from the factory without
the opportunity to collect their belongings or identification

BANGKOK 00001063 003.2 OF 003

papers. The police say they were later allowed to do so.

-- The factory remains open after the raid. RTG officials continue
to claim that Thai law does not allow them to shut down a commercial
enterprise until a criminal conviction is obtained against the

13. (U) Despite these issues, LPN's director characterized the raid
to Laboff as a "case study" in how to conduct an anti-trafficking
operation, and that he hoped Thai authorities would act in such a
fashion, with the noted adjustments, in future labor TIP


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