A Thai judge found a Cambodian national guilty of trafficking five Cambodian victims into forced labour in Thailand’s fishing industry. This landmark conviction marks the successful prosecution of the first forced labour trafficking case that IJM brought forward to Thai law enforcement, and the second conviction IJM has supported surrounding Thailand’s massive fishing industry.
“This is a landmark case because it underscores that justice for men in the Thai fishing industry is possible, despite a complex, deceptive cross-border trafficking network,”
said Andrey Sawchenko, Field Office Director, IJM Bangkok. “We congratulate the Thai and Cambodian authorities, especially our partners in Thailand, including DSI, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. We are hopeful that strong collaboration in this region will protect workers by showing there will be consequences for trafficking.”
Low Number of Cases Highlights Challenges in Tackling the Complex Crime
In Thailand, prosecutions of cases of forced labour trafficking on Thai fishing boats are rare—and convictions are even rarer. In 2017, the last year in which Thai government data is available, only 2% of trafficking prosecutions in Thailand were in cases of forced labour on fishing boats. And when trafficking cases are successfully prosecuted, the sentences tend to be low: only 33% of trafficking convictions resulted in sentences of longer than 10 years’ imprisonment in 2017.
Additionally, cross-border cases require immense collaboration and coordination across national governments. Pol. Maj. Arit Tatsaphan, Director of DSI’s Bureau of Human Trafficking Crime Division 3, spoke to this challenge: “One challenge presented was communication—communicating with the survivors [based in Cambodia] and following up with them for all of their interviews, due to the fact that the survivors [in this case] are foreigners. To meet this challenge, we received assistance from IJM both in Thailand and Cambodia, particularly in coordinating with Cambodian law enforcement who helped support this case, and in gathering evidence.”
The low number of cases and difficultly in securing a conviction, especially in complicated, cross-border forced labour trafficking cases, highlights the important work still left to do in combatting this crime and the importance of strengthening cross-border collaboration between Thai, Cambodian and Malaysian government authorities.
“In Thailand, prosecutions of cases of forced labour trafficking on Thai fishing boats are rare—and convictions are not common, making this conviction even more significant,” added Andrew Wasuwongse, Deputy Director at IJM Bangkok.
“But there are still thousands of victims forced to work on fishing vessels and in seafood processing centres who are in need of rescue, and are waiting for justice to be served. We are resolved to work together to fight this crime.”