BANGKOK – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on Thursday asked the countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion – Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia – to set up a joint body to combat human trafficking.
The UNODC and the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) released a report on Thursday on the situation of irregular migration from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to Thailand.
Thailand and its neighbors have to work more closely together and we recommend that they create a working group to combat and share information on human trafficking, UNODC’s Regional Representative, Jeremy Douglas, said at a press briefing.
According to the UNODC, there are nearly 4 million migrants living in Thailand – 90 percent of them are from the neighboring countries – out of whom thousands were smuggled into the country.
A large number of migrants, the potential victims of human trafficking and exploitation, are much higher compared to the number of traffickers brought to justice – 242 – in 2015, according to TIJ.
The report, which cites the lack of data and information as one of the biggest challenges in tackling the issue, includes profiles of victims (women, men and children) and traffickers, the most commonly used routes, methods and the behavior of the traffickers and the money paid to them by migrants.
“We now understand the situation better, and have identified some challenges and opportunities for enforcement and justice authorities in the countries. Importantly, the study provides a platform for us to expand our cooperation and assistance,” Douglas added.
The illegal immigrants are vulnerable and many fall into the hands of criminal organizations that force them to work in risk-prone environment and become exploited in the construction, fishing and agriculture sectors, among others, and even forced into prostitution or resold.
“It is not an easy challenge due to the hidden nature of the crime, which makes it difficult to track and prosecute the offenders. Victims are also often fearful of coming forward or are even unaware that what is happening to them is criminal,” Kittipong Kittayarak, Executive Director of the TIJ, said during the launch of the report at the UN headquarters in Bangkok.
Causes of illegal migration include inequality, poverty, lack of education and debts in one’s native country, leading the organization to underline regional development in order to better address the vulnerable and the disadvantaged members of society.