Cablegate: Labor Fraud Case: Thai Workers to Libya

DE RUEHBK #3443/01 3261016
P 211016Z NOV 08


Department for G/TIP MTaylor, DRL/IL MJunk
DOL/ILAB for Jennifer Piorkowski and Brandie Sasser


E.O. 12958: N/A

SUBJECT: Labor Fraud Case: Thai Workers to Libya

BANGKOK 00003443 001.2 OF 002

Sensitive But Unclassified. For Official Use Only.

1. (SBU) Summary: According to Thai authorities, in August and
September 2008, the Thai Consular Section in Cairo, Egypt helped
repatriate 57 Thai construction workers from Libya back to Thailand.
The workers, all male adults, traveled to Libya to work for a
construction firm and contacted the Thai embassy in Egypt after not
receiving payment as promised by the Thai labor broker who
facilitated their travel. The Thai government considers the case to
be one of labor abuse through fraud, but not human trafficking
(TIP), since the purpose of the fraud committed by the labor broker
was not for exploitation. The labor broker, who remains in Libya,
is being charged with two criminal counts under Thai law. End

2. (SBU) Comment: According to an official with the International
Organization for Migration, there are legitimate cases of Thai
laborers traveling to work in Libya. While details regarding this
particular case remain unclear (e.g., the identity of the
construction firm involved), a United Nations counter-part stated
that the RTG's determination that the laborers were not TIP victims
is reasonable. Nonetheless, we will report developments of interest
should they arise. End Comment.

3. (SBU) According to working level contacts at the Ministries of
Labor (MOL), Foreign Affairs (MFA), and Social Development and Human
Security (MSDHS), the Royal Thai Government (RTG) helped repatriate
57 Thai construction workers from Libya back to Thailand in August
and September 2008. After a month working without pay in Libya, the
construction workers (all men age 30-45) contacted the Thai Embassy
in Cairo to request repatriation assistance (the Thai government has
no diplomatic presence in Libya). The workers reported that, with
the help of a Thai labor broker, they traveled to Sadao near the
Thailand-Malaysia border and from there traveled into Malaysia in
order to obtain Libyan tourist visas. They stated the broker
promised to help change their tourist visas to work visas at some
future date. Each worker reportedly paid between approximately USD
1,800 and 2,600 to the broker for his services.

4. (SBU) Upon repatriation (apparently), police officers and
officials from the MOL and MSDHS interviewed the laborers in
question, at least some of whom reside in northern Thailand. The
laborers reported that after arriving in Libya and working for one
month with a construction firm (NFI) in Sabha, none of them received
payment from the broker as promised, even though their employer (the
construction firm owner) had provided funds to the broker to pay
salaries. The broker reportedly claims that he only received from
the firm's owner part of the money to pay the workers, and that he
(the broker) did not pay the Thais because they did not work.

5. (SBU) The workers told RTG officials that over the course of
their stay in Libya, they had to ask other Thai workers to share
food (or catch rabbits themselves) to have enough food to eat
(workers interviewed by the RTG estimated that an additional 150
Thais were also working in Libya, potentially under similar
circumstances). According to the RTG, the 57 Thai workers explained
that they maintained their travel documents at all times, were not
physically abused, and were not forced to work. The RTG has
determined the laborers are not victims of human trafficking since
the purpose of the fraud committed was not exploitation. (Note:
Under Thailand's June 2008 TIP law, for a person to be guilty of
trafficking in persons, three elements must exist: an action
(procuring, buying, selling, vending, bringing from or sending to,
detaining or confining, harboring, or receiving), a means (the
threat or use of force, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power,
or of the giving money or benefit), and an intention of exploitation
(defined as seeking benefits from the prostitution, production or
distribution of pornographic materials, other forms of sexual
exploitation, slavery, causing another person to be a beggar, forced
labor or service, coerced removal of organs for the purpose of
trade, or any other similar practices resulting in forced extortion,
regardless of such person's consent). End Note).

6. (SBU) Thai authorities have filed criminal charges against the
labor broker (who remains in Libya) for operating without a broker
license and for labor fraud. The RTG is now coping with the
challenge of potentially repatriating the additional 150 Thai
workers in Libya, made more difficult by Thailand's lack of an
embassy there. A team of officials from the MFA and MOL are working
on a repatriation plan. A contingent from the MFA flew to Libya
November 12 and another team from MOL will fly to Libya on November
22. Note: The Libyan government originally declined, but then
granted, visas to the MFA team. End Note.

BANGKOK 00003443 002.2 OF 002

7. (U) Minimize considered.

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