Over 900 human trafficking survivors have been rescued in Thailand so far this year, a figure set to cement 2019 as the nation’s worst for the illegal trade on record.
New data from the Thai government’s anti-trafficking agency reveals 974 trafficking survivors have been intercepted as of mid-July, almost a third higher than the total figure for the whole of 2018. According to Reuters, the survivors, mostly from Myanmar, were recruited due to an increased request for cheap workers in Malaysia’s agricultural, fishing, and sex industries.
"There's a high possibility that figures this year will reach a record high, with many victims telling us they were planning to work in Malaysia," Mana Kleebsattabudh, the deputy commander at the anti-trafficking division, told Reuters.
The survivors — who were recruited for less than USD $975 — were rescued along the southern boundary between Thailand and Malaysia. Kleebsattabudh said that, despite being kept in forests and huts, the survivors did not believe they were being tricked.
"What we find is these people are being kept in bad conditions ... far from communities, which shows the bad intentions of those bringing them," he stated. "More importantly, the victims don't see themselves as being deceived and often endure hardship in order to get to their destination."
The number of human trafficking victims rescued by Thai police is set to hit a record high this year. 974 trafficking victims - mostly from Myanmar - have been rescued in 2019 so far.— IOM Thailand (@IOMThailand) July 24, 2019
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The uptick in thwarted trafficking attempts could now see traffickers increasingly transport people via sea, Kleebsattabudh warned. This reduces the likelihood of being seized by government officials but is considered more dangerous. The most recent sea trafficking case occurred in June, when authorities discovered 70 people stuck on an island near the border with Malaysia.
Kleebsattabudh said the boat, which was carrying Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh, was in the open sea for three days.
Alongside a recent spike in human trafficking, another disturbing trend has occurred.
In January, a United Nations report revealed the number of girls reported as human trafficking victims has risen.
According to the report, young girls and women often leave their homes on the false promise of high-paying jobs. They are then subsequently lured and coerced into the sexual exploitation trade or employed as maids against their will.
"This report shows that we need to step up technical assistance and strengthen cooperation, to support all countries to protect victims, bring criminals to justice, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals," Yury Fedotov, executive director of the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime, told UN News.
Last month, the United States’ Department of State released its 2019 report on trafficking in Thailand.
While Thailand is reportedly making great strides, the report claims the country still does “not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”
The report has urged the country to increase efforts to identify trafficking victims and improve the capacity of law enforcement to prosecute and convict traffickers. Likewise, the report calls for an investigation of all officials allegedly complicit in facilitating trafficking and to ensure adequate trauma-informed care is provided to all victim shelters.