U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report: TIP Heroes in Thailand
LPN NEWS: Anais Hull
Since 2001 the U.S. Department of State has published an annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report). This report, released in June every year, provides an assessment of individual state governments’ actions and policies to combat human trafficking. As a part of the report, the Department of State also awards individuals who have dedicated significant efforts to fight human trafficking with the TIP Report Hero Acting to End Human Slavery Award. These may be awarded to any individual including lawmakers, NGO staff, and government officials. This year Thailand was honored to have another individual recognized for their efforts, the deputy director of the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Center, Apinya Tajit. Ms. Apinya is recognized for this award alongside former Thai recipients Sompong Srakaew in 2008 and Boom Mosby in 2017.
Sompong Srakaew (Left) and Boom Mosby (Right)
Apinya Tajit, as the deputy director of the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Center, based in Thailand, has devoted her time to assisting victims of forced labor and exploitation in the fishing sector. Her work has aided numerous workers from various countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Burma, and Indonesia. Ms. Apinya has also raised awareness for victims of child trafficking. She has visited numerous schools throughout Thailand to educate more than 10,000 students every year. Outside of this Ms. Apinya cooperates with Thai authorities in the victim identification process, which is particularly difficult on fishing vessels that spend long periods of time out to sea. However, her assistance often goes further than victim identification. She often aids in victims’ reintegration into society and educates them on their rights as workers. Ms. Apinya’s work has been key in developing Thai authorities’ capacity to detect exploitation at sea.
In 2008, Sompong Srakaew was the first Thai individual to be recognized as a TIP Hero. As the founder of the Labour Protection Network (LPN) that aims to alleviate the injustices faced by migrant workers and their children and to educate them in claiming and asserting their rights. Mr. Sompong’s work has largely focused on the seafood processing and fishing industry in Thailand which are largely unregulated. LPN has worked to conduct raids to liberate migrant and Thai workers from forced labor. His advocacy has directly led to the strengthening of Thai laws surrounding human trafficking and work standards in the seafood industry. Furthermore, Mr. Sompong has also continued to help integrate migrant youth and children into Thai society and the Thai education system. He has tirelessly worked to change the perception of migrant workers in Thailand and to ensure that these workers are knowledgeable on what their rights are and how to report an abuse of their rights.
Boom Mosby received the TIP Hero award in 2017 for her work as an advocate for child victims of sexual abuse in Thailand. As the founder and director of the HUG Project, Ms. Mosby has developed key relationships with law enforcement, government officials, and other NGOs to create a network of resources for child victims. Ms. Mosby’s work has focused on promoting prevention, recovery, and reintegration programs for sex trafficking survivors and those vulnerable to trafficking. In 2015, she had an integral role in the establishment of the Advocacy Center for Children Thailand (ACT House) in Chiang Mai. This advocacy center was the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. She has also assisted the Thailand Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force by developing standard procedures for investigating and prosecuting cyber crimes against children.
The hard work of these individuals and many other organizations has resulted in great improvements in the prevention of modern slavery in Thailand today. This was recognized in the 2022 TIP Report as Thailand’s status is now listed as a tier 2 country and is no longer on the tier 2 watchlist. Thailand’s status was raised due to the Thai government’s increasing number of trafficking investigations, implementation of guidelines for the forced labor provision of the anti-trafficking law, finalization of a national referral mechanism (NRM), and initiation of investigations on 17 alleged complicit officials in 2021, two of which were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. Furthermore, the Thai government also established a new trafficking victim identification center, which results in more victims being identified than in the previous reporting period. It is through the work of the prior mentioned TIP heroes and their advocacy that these improvements have been made possible.
However, the TIP report still contained numerous recommendations for improving Thailand’s human trafficking policy. This includes increasing prosecutions and punishment of human trafficking, particularly forced labor, improved training to ensure officers implement guidelines in accordance with the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law and Labor Trafficking Victims Identification, ensuring that multidisciplinary teams have sufficient training and experience with human trafficking cases, ensure effective implementation of the NRM, expand legal options for migrant workers and forcing employers to pay wages on a regular basis.
The TIP report also made specific recommendations regarding the prevention of officers taking bribes to ignore the occurrence of human trafficking and labor rights abuses to ensure all victims receive justice.
Finally, the TIP report made numerous recommendations surrounding shelters for victims of human trafficking, including allowing them to leave when needed and not requiring them to stay within the shelter, ensuring they provide legal assistance and rehabilitation programs, and not restrict victims' access to these shelters.