Thailand Taps Tourists to Fight Human Trafficking

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At Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi airport a video plays scenes of tourists visiting Thailand’s famous beaches and vibrant nightlife, but at the end there’s a warning.

“Human trafficking and slavery are against the law in Thailand. Perpetrators will be severely punished.” It is accompanied with a hotline number for tourists to report suspected cases.

Thailand is world renowned for its tourist industry. Last year a record 35 million tourists visited the country, and the government expects it to rise to 37.6 million this year. However, in recent the years the country has come under international scrutiny for failing to combat human trafficking, especially in its lucrative seafood industry.

Thailand is still on the Tier 2 Watchlist — the second to lowest ranking of the US Trafficking in Persons report, signaling that the country has not met the minimum standards to combat trafficking.

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that this new campaign targeting tourists may be motivated by the government’s desire to earn a better ranking.

Eyeing a better ranking, the government has vowed a clean-up. In recent months, it partnered with airlines and charities to warn visitors against involvement in trafficking, while urging them to spot and report potential cases.

“Every effort is important,” Weerachon Sukhontapatipak, a Thai government spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are doing our best,” he said. “Therefore we hope the situation in Thailand will be better, and it will be recognized by the international community.”

The Thai government has teamed up with Thai Airways to show anti-trafficking in-flight videos on its international routes since February, said Nuttavika Tamthai, a spokeswoman for the national carrier.

The campaign extends to shopping malls, cinemas, and train stations across Bangkok, with tips for visitors on the warning signs of trafficking.

A21, an anti-trafficking NGO, has also been working with the Thai government since 2017 on a separate campaign called “Can You See Me?” The campaign highlights all forms of trafficking, including trafficking for sexual exploitation in places like Pattaya as well as forced child begging.

“The Thai government alone cannot solve the problem. We need the hotel groups, we need the tourists, we need everybody who can to join in,” said Malina Enlund from A21 Thailand.

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