Cablegate: G/Tip Visit Highlights Strenghts and Weaknesses of Anti-Tip

DE RUEHCHI #0152/01 2870520
R 140520Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


CHIANG MAI 00000152 001.2 OF 002

Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.

Summary and Comment

1. (SBU) A G/TIP fact-finding mission to Northern Thailand
reaffirmed that NGO's and Thai Government Agencies are working
to stem the flow of trafficking in persons cases, though a
number of problems remain. Burmese migrants are wary of the
consequences of a newly developed migrant worker registration
and nationality verification program. Also, alleged corruption
and lack of training among local officials, especially police,
remains pervasive. Finally, sex trafficking victims sometimes
begin as voluntary participants in the sex industry, only to
find that they have been deceived about true pay, working
conditions, working locations, and debts incurred.

2. (SBU) Comment: While the efforts being made by the NGO's and
law enforcement agencies to combat human trafficking have made a
lot of progress, it is difficult not to be frustrated by the
number of factors inhibiting greater success. Without greater
support in the areas of funding, training, migrant worker
awareness and protection, better law enforcement and cooperation
between countries, the road ahead will be difficult. The draw
of relatively well paid employment and a well-established
network of labor recruiters and transporters will continue to
ensure a supply of economic migrants, who are often undocumented
and vulnerable to trafficking. End Summary and Comment.

3. (SBU) On August 26 and 27, Econoff and G/TIPoff traveled to
Chiang Mai, Mae Ai, and Mae Sai as orientation for G/TIP's
reports officer for Thailand. Econoff and G/TIPoff met with The
New Life Center Foundation (NLCF), Migrant Learning Center
(MLC), Migrant Justice Program (MJP), Migrant Assistance Program
(MAP), International Refugee Committee (IRC), Mae Ai Legal
Clinic (MALC), Development and Education Program for Daughters
and Communities (DEPDC), Anti-Trafficking Coordination Unit
Northern Thailand (TRAFCORD), and the Provincial Counter Human
Trafficking Taskforce (PCHTT).

--------------------------------------------- --------------
New registration program, same as the old, nonexistent
registration program
--------------------------------------------- --------------

4. (SBU) A newly developed migrant worker registration and
nationality verification program has been put into place in
Thailand (reftel). According to the Thai government, this
program will give migrant workers protection under existing Thai
labor laws, access to health services, and the right to travel
while working in Thailand. However, the feedback from multiple
NGOs is that this program falls far short of its advertised
benefits, and the requirement for Burmese migrant workers to
return to Burma for nationality verification may place migrants
in greater danger. (Note: Cambodian and Lao migrant workers can
have their nationality verified at centers in Thailand set up by
their governments. The Burmese Government refused to make
comparable arrangements for Burmese workers, and instead
requires them to return to Burma to verify their nationality.)

5. (SBU) During the visit in August, numerous migrant groups
complained that little information about the registration
process has been shared with them and migrant communities.
According to the migrant groups, migrants are turning to brokers
to get them through the registration process. Many who have
registered have yet to see access to the mentioned services.
One example is motor vehicles. Currently, both registered
migrants and illegal immigrants who register through the new
program are barred from legal ownership of motor vehicles or
drivers licenses, as are unregistered migrants/other illegal
immigrants. According to NGO representatives, this makes
migrant workers especially susceptible to harassment and
corruption by local authorities as they go about their daily
tasks (including commuting to and from work). Typical fines for
Thai nationals who are caught using a motorbike without a
license are $3 to $6, but $60 is often demanded of illegal
migrant workers, according to NGOs.

6. (SBU) Another shortcoming is in the area of enforcement of
Thai Labor laws. Despite entitlement to the Thai minimum wage,
unskilled migrant workers generally receive below minimum wage.
According to advocates for migrant workers and NGOs that assist
them, migrant worker salaries vary by locality, ranging from $4
/day in Chiang Mai to $1.50/day in the Thai-Burma border town of
Mae Sot Tak Province. In addition, even if the migrant worker
registration program was effective, how many would actually
participate remains an open question. Currently Burmese

CHIANG MAI 00000152 002.2 OF 002

workers, the largest migrant worker group in Northern Thailand,
told us they know little about the registration process and
purported benefits, and are hesitant to register out of fear the
Burmese government will extort their family members still
resident in Burma. The Migrant Learning Center noted reports
that some families in Burma of registered Burmese in Thailand
were extorted by Burmese officials. (Comment: We have been
unable to substantiate reports of such exploitation.)

--------------------------------------------- --------------
More police corruption to go with your departmental underfunding?
--------------------------------------------- --------------

7. (SBU) According to all the NGO representatives met with
during this trip, corruption among local officials, especially
police, remains the most significant obstacle to
anti-trafficking efforts in Northern Thailand. This corruption
can include "taxes" paid to police by sex establishments in
exchange for being tipped off ahead of raids, extortion of
arrested illegal migrant workers, and fees paid to border
officials to smuggle people who may end up being trafficked.
The regional TIP Task Force acknowledged that many police are
unaware of the trafficking problem, and NGOs also opined that
additional training for local police about the new
anti-trafficking-in-persons laws is still required to improve
their understanding and use of the law.

8. (SBU) Local law enforcement officers with the Provincial
Counter Human Trafficking Taskforce stated that anti- human
trafficking assignments appear less attractive for
professionally aspiring police officers than higher profile
crime suppression work. This makes it difficult to keep well
trained officers in the unit for extended periods of time, they
asserted. They also stated that due to the low profile nature
of its mission, the unit has received a limited budget for
operations, training, and staffing. NGOs noted that most
investigatory work on trafficking cases is done by the NGO
community, who then hand cases off to the police for follow-up,
which is sometimes insufficient to see cases through to
successful completion.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
Conditions Different from What Was Expected
--------------------------------------------- ------------

9. (SBU) Much trafficking originating from northern Thailand
involves the hill tribes and ethnic minorities from neighboring
Burma, many of whom are stateless. Overseas destinations for
these victims include Malaysia, Singapore, Bahrain, Japan, South
Korea, and South Africa. Those who find themselves victims of
sex trafficking sometimes enter the sex industry voluntarily,
and are then deceived about their conditions and pay, and are
forced into situations of debt bondage.

10. (SBU) Many Burmese refugees and hill tribe women volunteer
to take sex industry jobs overseas due to the lure of higher
wages only to find the working conditions and pay far worse than
what they expected. Many of these women incurred large debts in
order to travel to these countries and are forced to work in the
sex industry under sub standard conditions in order to repay
that debt. Those heading to South Korea and Japan were reported
to have been recruited for what turned out to be sham marriages,
only to be co-opted into the sex industry upon arrival.

11. (SBU) The Provincial TIP Task Force and TRAFCORD noted a
significant number of reported cases where victims were
trafficked to Malaysia. TRAFCORD had on record four such cases
in one month, and noted challenges in facing "heavy duty
syndicates," brutal cases of trafficking, and police corruption
in Malaysia. The Task Force reported that some women and girls
are recruited as housekeepers in Malaysia, and then forced to
work in karaoke bars. There are also serious cases of labor
trafficking involving fishermen in Sabah, and TRAFCORD
representatives stated the group currently has six open cases in
which it is assisting the families of such victims to sue the
recruitment companies that forced them onto fishing boats.
While there have been some sex trafficking victims identified by
Malaysian authorities, the Thai Embassy in Malaysia was denied
access to the victims, who were "imprisoned" in Malaysian
shelters, according to TRAFCORD.

12. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassies Bangkok and
Kuala Lumpur, and with G/TIP.

© Scoop Media

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