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2005-02-23 03:03:00
Embassy Bangkok
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 001321 




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 04 BANGKOK 7573


1. (U) Summary. Senior Royal Thai police (RTP), accompanied
by a post NGO anti-trafficking partner, traveled to Malaysia
to enhance cooperation in countering the increasing
cross-border trafficking of women and children. A
low-ranking Thai policeman was convicted for trafficking a
14-year old girl to Malaysia in 2002. The RTP also arrested
a major trafficker of Burmese men/boys onto commercial
fishing trawlers. Some forced seamen end up marooned on an
isolated Indonesian island. UN agencies based in Bangkok
will advocate a special "amnesty" for illegal Burmese workers
in tsunami-affected provinces. Thai officials denied press
reports that pregnant migrant workers from Burma, Laos and
Cambodia face deportation. A DRL/IL - funded project
encourages a voluntary labor standard designed to help
Thailand claim the reputation of a "clean labor" destination.
End Summary.

2. Thai Police Investigate Trafficking to Malaysia



(SBU) The Royal Thai police (RTP), in cooperation with the US
NGO International Justice Mission (IJM), completed a
six-month investigation of the trafficking of Thai and
Burmese women and girls to Johor Bahru, Malaysia, near the
border with Singapore. Several former victims provided
information indicating that a single trafficker employed
70-80 women/girls as sex workers, including some who are
underage and/or coerced. Thai, Burmese and Chinese women
(from Yunnan province) are the primary victims. Ethnic Shan
women from Burma are recruited from just across the Thai -
Burma border, and enter Thailand at the northern Mae Sai
crossing. Thai women lured from northern Chiang Mai and
Chiang Rai are promised jobs in Bangkok. Both Burmese and
Thais are brought by van or pick-up truck to the southern
province of Hat Yai, an eight hundred mile journey. Some are
then blindfolded during the onward trip to Johor Bahru. Upon
arrival at a string of karaoke bars and brothels owned by the
Malaysian trafficker, they are informed that they each owe
about USD 1,600. One young Burmese woman took nine months, at
five customers a day, to pay off the debt. On February 16, a
team of senior RTP officials (accompanied by IJM) traveled to
Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru to present their findings to the
Malaysian police's anti-trafficking unit. The International
Organization for Migration (IOM) in Bangkok has agreed to
assist in the repatriation of any Thai or Burmese victims
discovered in Johor Bahru.

3. Conviction of Thai Policeman in Trafficking Case



(U) On February 8, a court in southern Songkhla province

sentenced a low-ranking Thai policeman to 10 years in prison
for his part in a trafficking ring which attempted to sell a
14-year old into sexual exploitation. The police lance
corporal, and two others, "purchased" the young Thai girl and
brought her to Malaysia in 2002. A Thai woman was also
sentenced to 16 years for her part in the scheme. Charges
were brought under the Penal Code and the 1997
Anti-Trafficking Act.

4. Trafficking of Burmese Men/Boys onto Fishing Trawlers



(SBU) The Seafarer's Union of Burma (SUB) reported on
February 16 that a group of ten Burmese males, including
three minors, was confined on a fishing trawler in the port
of Maha Chai, Samut Sakhon province, about 40 miles from
Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. The migrants entered
Thailand illegally four days before. They were promised jobs
in factories by a well-known Burmese smuggler/trafficker, but
were delivered directly to the vessel, and told they were
obligated to work on board for four and a half years in
Indonesian fishing waters. The ethnic Karen men/boys,
reportedly first time migrants to Thailand and easily
intimidated, wished to depart but were controlled by four
guards posted around the boat. Once the trawler left port,
the trafficker was to receive 130,000 baht (USD 3,421) from
the Thai captain. The impressed seamen would have to re-pay
this sum from meager monthly wages. On February 18, post
provided the information to the RTP trafficking in persons
unit, and on the same day police arrested the trafficker and
owner of the vessel. The dragooning of Burmese sailors
appears to occur regularly in Chonburi, Songkhla and Samut
Sakhon provinces on the Gulf of Thailand, and in Ranong on
the Andaman Sea. Surplus or uncooperative seamen are often
stranded on the isolated island of Tual in Indonesia's Banda
Sea. The SUB estimates the current Burmese population there
at about 2,000. In December, UN officials interviewed
several returnees from Tual, who alleged Indonesian
immigration police complicity in a system of re-trafficking
abandoned Burmese seamen onto other Thai trawlers short of
crews. The men complained of bitter working conditions,
including non-payment of wages and beatings. Some told of
isolated incidents of murders by the captains.

5. Child Sex Tourism Component in ILEA Training


(U) The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), a
joint US - Thai regional training facility in Bangkok,
presented a course between January 31 - February 11 on
"Dealing with Sex Offenders". Participants included 54
mid-level police and immigration officials from Thailand,
Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia,
Brunei, the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong S.A.R., and
Indonesia. The training, which received good reviews by
participants, included a component on child sex tourism
conducted by a FBI specialist. The UK government provided
funding for the course.

6. UN Advocacy on Tsunami-affected Migrants


(SBU) A joint study by the Bangkok regional United Nations
(UN) "country team" and the International Organization for
Migration on the plight of Burmese migrants affected by the
tsunami was released on February 7 (Ref B.) The study

concluded that some 7,000 Burmese workers (not including
dependents) were affected, either through loss of life,
health, livelihood or belongings. Little information is
available on the location of thousands of migrants who simply
disappeared after the disaster, although hundreds are
believed to be sheltered in make shift dwellings on hillsides
and in rubber plantations in the six affected southern
provinces. Despite some NGO efforts, food, water and health
care provision for this population remains poor. The UN/IOM
report argues for a moratorium on arrests/deportations of
migrants in affected areas. Personal security of the migrants
must be assured before other problems can be addressed: loss
of employment, replacement of lost work permits, access to
health care, and identifying the dead. The study's
recommendations, to be presented by the regional UN Resident
Coordinator to the RTG Ministry of Foreign Affairs the week
of February 20, include a special "amnesty" for illegal
Burmese in tsunami-affected provinces. An NGO network
assisting the Burmese reports replacement of work permits is
extremely slow, hampered by difficulties in providing
information to the widely scattered groups, and migrant
anxieties about arrest when contacting RTG authorities. As a
result, only 93 replacement cards had been issued as of
February 14. Employers in the area are anxious to have the
migrants remain to assist in rehabilitation of the fishing
industry, and to fill construction sites in resort areas
damaged by the December 26 tsunami.

7. Pregnant Migrant Workers to Face Deportation?


(SBU) In July 2004, the RTG conducted an open registration
for migrants from Burma, Laos and Cambodia already resident
in Thailand. Almost 1.3 million workers and dependents
registered, allowing them a twelve-month period of legal
residence in Thailand to conduct health checks and find
employers with MOL - verified needs. By January, 692,000
workers and dependents had received check-ups, with about 1.5
percent diagnosed with contagious diseases that will force
their deportation. Over 9,000 female workers were found to
be pregnant, and press reports in recent weeks suggested they
would be deported as well. On February 7, the MOL Deputy
Permanent Secretary responded to Laboff concerns by asserting
that "No formal decision had been made - it is only a
suggestion," to forcibly return the pregnant women. The
suggestion appears to come from the RTG National Security
Council (NSC), the lead agency on a national-level Alien
Labor Management Committee. (The NSC has argued in the past
that the presence of many stateless children poses a
long-term security threat to Thailand.) The National Human
Rights Commission, established under the reformist 1997
Constitution, has also objected to the deportation of
pregnant migrants as a violation of a constitutional
provision that asserts "the human dignity, rights and liberty
of a person are protected." A plan to have Burmese officials
provide identity documents to the 906,000 registered Burmese
in Thailand is months behind schedule, with little likelihood
of significant progress before the July 2005 expiration of
the program. At that time, migrants who have not been
matched with an employer and provided with ID cards by their
home government are slated for deportation.

8. US Anti-Sweatshop Project


(U) Laboff opened a State/DRL - funded seminar, "Preventing
Abuses in Sweatshops" (PASS), in southern Surat Thani
province on February 1st. Training on the MOL-promoted
voluntary labor code, Thailand Labor Standard 8001, was
provided to mid-level labor officials from fourteen southern
provinces. TLS 8001 (closely based on its namesake, the
international SAI 8000 voluntary code) is a unique effort by
the RTG to establish Thailand as a "clean labor" destination
for foreign buyers and investors. Since 2003, some 320
factories in Thailand have been certified under TLS 8001.
Implemented by the Solidarity Center, the PASS project has
trained 382 workers, managers and MOL officials on TLS 8001
standards and monitoring throughout the country since
November 2004. Other PASS activities include training
legally mandated worker safety committees in various aspects
of occupational safety and health (OSH) in larger automobile,
chemical and electrical appliance industries. Those
committees will then train the workers. Next step: expanding
OSH training to smaller enterprises, those with less than 50
workers, where most sweatshop conditions are found. In
April, the PASS project will open a legal aid office in the
Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot, where tens of thousands of
migrants work in exploitative conditions in textile, garment
and jewelry factories. The office will provide assistance to
registered migrants who wish to make complaints (such as
unpaid minimum wages) under the 1998 Labor Protection Act.