Human traffickers in Thailand defy court orders, refuse to compensate victims – Report


In more than 99percent cases of human trafficking in Thailand, traffickers ignored court orders to compensate victims, fuelling fears that many survivors could be re-trafficked, revealed by data obtained exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

According to the latest available statistics from the Office of the Attorney General, obtained by Thomson Reuters Foundation, Thai courts have ordered traffickers to pay their victims more than 130 million baht (USD4.3 million) for damages caused in about 1,335 cases since 2014.

However, the money was only paid in five cases, with survivors receiving a total of 5.6 million baht – excluding cases settled out of court – found data from the government’s anti-trafficking department, obtained via Thailand’s freedom of information law.

Although Thailand has rescued a record-breaking 1,000-plus trafficking victims this year, campaigners are concerned that the failure to pay compensation will leave them in fresh danger.

Chonticha Tangworamongkon, a program director at the Human Rights and Development Foundation, which provides free legal aid to migrant workers and trafficking victims said, “It’s an important issue that is unfortunately being neglected. This money will enable (victims) to start a new life and prevent them from being re-trafficked, but the government’s role in assisting victims in pursuing the claims is still not clear.”

Meanwhile, Thai government considers amending its 1999 anti-money laundering law to allow offenders’ assets seized by the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) to be used to compensate victims.

Four public hearings were held this year to discuss the legal amendment – seized assets are currently state property – but it is unclear when it will be reviewed by the cabinet, the Thomson Reuters Foundation report said.

Thailand is home to about 610,000 modern slaves – about one in 113 of its 69 million people – according to the Global Slavery Index by the rights group Walk Free Foundation.

The United States called on Thailand in June to increase compensation to victims in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report – which ranked it as a Tier 2 country – meaning it is making significant efforts to combat the crime.

Trafficking victims are automatically compensated through a government fund – which provides living and rehabilitation expenses and lost wages – but Tangworamongkon said these sums of money were not sufficient for victims to rebuild their lives.

While Thai law allows victims to claim compensation from convicted traffickers, offenders have refused to pay in more than 1,000 cases – for which there is no legal punishment.

The law requires the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to assist victims in enforcing their compensation claims, yet anti-trafficking charities and campaigners say it has failed to ensure that fines are collected from offenders.

But pursuing claims is a complex process, which involves tracing offenders’ assets and bringing in the Legal Execution Department – which enforces court orders – to seize them.

Ratchapon Maneelek, a director at Thailand’s anti-trafficking department, which falls under the social ministry, said several government agencies had been holding meetings to determine the extent of their legal powers to enforce claims.

“This is something new for us that we may not have expertise in,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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(About the source: The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.)