Page last updated at 03:27 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 04:27 UK

New trafficking law for Thailand

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

A Thai soldier checks identification documents of a Burmese worker in Ranong province in April 2008
Thailand is a magnet for workers from its poorer neighbours

Thailand is set to introduce a new law in response to criticism it is still too lax in combating human trafficking.

The law, which strengthens protection for victims of trafficking, will be accompanied by a day of campaigning to raise public awareness of the problem.

Thailand attracts huge numbers of illegal migrants from poorer, neighbouring countries.

It is also an important transit route for people being trafficked in the East Asian region.

External pressure

Thailand already has an anti-trafficking law - but it does not work very well.

The police often refuse to recognise abused migrants as victims of trafficking.

Emergency crews at the lorry in Ranong, Thailand, 10/04
Two months ago, dozens of Burmese workers suffocated in a lorry

A case in point is that of the survivors of an incident two months ago in which 57 Burmese migrants suffocated in a container smuggling them into Thailand.

The police argued that they were illegal immigrants, jailed and then deported them.

The UN defines a trafficking victim as anyone who is transported for purposes of exploitation.

The new law will broaden the definition of victims to include men, and make it easier to prevent them from being summarily deported.

Thailand has come under strong international pressure to improve its treatment of migrants, especially from the United States.

There have been persistent reports of Burmese workers, including children, being exploited in the seafood processing industry, which exports around $2bn (1bn) worth of prawns to the US every year.

But changing the anti-trafficking law alone will not solve the problem.

Enforcing it requires the co-operation of a sometimes corrupt police force which activists say is itself involved in the business of smuggling illegal migrants.

Burma migrants suffocate in lorry
10 Apr 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Poverty driving Burmese workers east
10 Oct 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Life on the Burma-Thai border
26 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Thailand
28 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

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