The Situation on the Ground

Throughout my time interning at Winrock International, I have been learning about the landscape of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

 Thailand is a source for survivor of trafficking, a transit country within the trafficking chain, and a destination country for trafficking of persons. Labor shortages and economic instability in the wake of COVID-19 have exacerbated the number of individuals trafficked into, out of, and within SE Asia. Within Thailand, migrant workers, often coming from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos, are particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation in low-skilled labor sectors such as domestic work, agriculture, fishing, tourism, hospitality, construction, and food processing. Though the government has created a migration pathway for individuals from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam who seek work in Thailand through several Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) , the length, price, and complexity of the process often pushes many to enter the country through illegal means. As the Department of State’s 2023 TIP report notes, smugglers will typically use deceptive practices and the imposition of debt to lure these victims into forced labor.

 Winrock International’s USAID Thailand Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) project aims to combat human trafficking in Thailand. Specifically, Winrock International’s mission within the USAID Thailand Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) project can be divided into three key sub-goals. Firstly, Thailand CTIP aims to target the Demand by working with international companies that exert significant leverage on Thailand’s exporters and suppliers, reducing human trafficking where it happens: in workplaces and supply chains. Furthermore, Thailand CTIP aims to support the Vulnerable through equipping those most at risk for human trafficking with the information, knowledge, networks, and access to complaint mechanisms and support services they need to prevent themselves from being trafficked. Lastly, Thailand CTIP strives to support government in their policies and protection systems by ensuring that once a trafficked person is identified, they will receive the support they need and that the polices reflect their specific needs and voices. The project currently works in six provinces in Thailand and works closely with the Thai government and the private sector to formulate policy. One project in particular that I had the privilege of assisting on recently was conducting an analysis of how Thai labor laws can be strengthened to include protections for migrant workers with respect to freedom of assembly.

While human trafficking is a complex issue, I am excited to continue working under Winrock Thailand CTIP to devise ways to combat this phenomenon.