The first Thai advocate to receive TIP HERO
Sompong Srakaew is a human rights activist who has been a key figure in the mission to improve the living conditions and social standings of Thailand’s most vulnerable group migrants, particularly children and women. He, alongside Patima Tungpuchayakul, founded the Labour Protection Network Foundation (LPN) in 2004, in order to combat issues faced by migrant workers and children such as human trafficking and exploitation as well as to provide migrant youth and children with education. He has dedicated his life to combating human trafficking and modern slavery in order to improve the livelihoods of migrant workers, youth, and children.
Sompong’s involvement with migrant issues began in the 1990s after he graduated with a social work degree. Coming from a small village near the Cambodian border, Sompong was familiar with cross-border migration and the issues migrants faced in Thailand. He was inspired to establish LPN after witnessing the injustices migrant workers face in the Thai fishing seafood processing industry.
For the past 17 years, Sompong and LPN, have worked tirelessly to ensure, that migrants and transborder workers, particularly those from Cambodia, Burma, and Laos, have access to fundamental rights, human rights protections, social protections, and freedom from the discrimination they are entitled to in Thailand. LPN acts as a mechanism to provide support to those who are exploited and face injustice in the workplace and are unable to access adequate rights and social protection mechanisms.
Sompong and LPN have done this on three different levels: the local level, the national level, and the international level.
LPN’s local level of operations involves creating strong networks of migrant workers and others at risk of being trafficked into forced labor to ensure they are educated on their rights and provided with support. Furthermore, they also conduct rescue missions and raids of boats and processing facilities where workers' rights abuses are reported.
At the national level, Sompong and LPN collaborate with government officials in order to advocate for better working standards within the Thai seafood and fishing industry. LPN also provides consultation to both the private and public sectors on how they can prevent labor rights abuses within their organizations.
On the international level, LPN collaborates with other NGOs, international organizations, such as ASEAN, and the international press to amplify the voices of migrant workers.
Sompong’s efforts were recognized in 2008 when he became the first Thai advocate to receive the U.S. Department of State Trafficking Persons Report (TIP Report) Hero Acting to End Human Slavery Award. Sompong was given this award due to his efforts that year in shaping the 2008 Anti-Trafficking Act in Thailand. This act, with the assistance of Sompong’s advocacy, strengthened the provisions of the penal code that criminalize human trafficking.
Furthermore, Sompong has gained a role in South-East Asia and the ASEAN region as a key voice on modern-day slavery and the abuse of migrant workers' rights. This is clearly illustrated as in 2021 he was invited to attend the 16th ASEAN GO-NGO Forum on Social Welfare and Development. LPN and Sompong continue to be recognized as key seafood experts who can help create a slavery-free seafood supply chain.
In 2022, Sompong, Alongside LPN, continues his advocacy for improved migrant rights in Thailand. LPN’s plans for 2022 include providing rehabilitation and vocational training for migrant youth and children to aid in their integration into Thai society and the formal education system, constructing a rehabilitation center for victims of forced labor and exploitation, and creating stronger networks for child protection and those vulnerable to trafficking. Sompong’s contributions have been and will continue to be, essential to Thailand’s continued attempts to eliminate modern slavery and integrate migrant workers, youth, and children into Thai society.