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Sompong Srakaew: A Pioneer in Combatting Human Trafficking and Promoting Migrant Rights

Sompong Srakaew, a dedicated human rights activist, has been a leading figure in the fight to improve the living conditions and social standings of Thailand’s most vulnerable populations, particularly migrants, children, and women. In 2004, alongside Patima Tungpuchayakul, he co-founded the Labour Protection Network Foundation (LPN) to address issues such as human trafficking and exploitation, and to ensure that migrant youth and children receive access to education. Sompong’s unwavering commitment to eradicating human trafficking and modern slavery has been instrumental in enhancing the livelihoods of migrant workers, youth, and children in Thailand.

Sompong's journey began in the 1990s, after earning a degree in social work. Growing up in a small village near the Cambodian border, he was acutely aware of the challenges faced by migrants. Witnessing the exploitation of migrant workers in the Thai fishing and seafood processing industry inspired him to establish LPN. For over 17 years, Sompong and LPN have worked tirelessly to ensure that migrants and cross-border workers, particularly those from Cambodia, Burma, and Laos, have access to fundamental rights, human rights protections, social protections, and freedom from discrimination in Thailand. LPN serves as a support mechanism for those who face exploitation and workplace injustices, providing them with the necessary social protection and advocacy.

LPN's work is carried out on three levels: local, national, and international. Locally, LPN has established strong networks of migrant workers and individuals at risk of being trafficked into forced labor, ensuring they are educated about their rights and receive adequate support. They conduct rescue operations and raids on boats and processing facilities where workers' rights abuses are reported. Nationally, LPN collaborates with government officials to advocate for improved working standards within the Thai seafood and fishing industry. They also provide consultation to both the private and public sectors on preventing labor rights abuses within their organizations. Internationally, LPN partners with other NGOs, international organizations such as ASEAN, and international media to amplify the voices of migrant workers.

In recognition of his efforts, Sompong was honored in 2008 as the first Thai advocate to receive the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) Hero Acting to End Human Slavery Award. This accolade was a testament to his significant role in shaping Thailand's 2008 Anti-Trafficking Act, which strengthened legal provisions against human trafficking.

Sompong has also emerged as a prominent voice in Southeast Asia and the ASEAN region on modern-day slavery and migrant workers' rights abuses. In 2021, he was invited to the 16th ASEAN GO-NGO Forum on Social Welfare and Development. LPN and Sompong continue to be recognized as key experts in the seafood industry, striving to create a slavery-free seafood supply chain.

In 2022, Sompong, alongside LPN, continued his advocacy for improved migrant rights in Thailand. LPN’s initiatives included providing rehabilitation and vocational training for migrant youth and children to facilitate their integration into Thai society and the formal education system, constructing a rehabilitation center for victims of forced labor and exploitation, and strengthening networks for child protection and those vulnerable to trafficking. Sompong's contributions have been, and will remain, vital to Thailand’s ongoing efforts to eliminate modern slavery and integrate migrant workers, youth, and children into Thai society.

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