Forced labour fishing industry, sexual exploitation, and child soldiers in southern conflict cited as concerns.
AN ESTIMATED 425,500 people live in conditions of modern slavery in Thailand, according to the Global Slavery Index.
The study on the country’s situation has identified forced labour, particularly in the fishing industry, commercial sexual exploitation and child soldiers as traps for 0.63 per cent of its population.
Thailand shares the 20th spot in estimated proportion of the population in slavery with Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Mali and Lebanon.
The worst-ranked country or the country with the highest prevalence of modern-day slavery is North Korea with an estimated 4.37 per cent of its population as modern-day slaves.
The Global Slavery Index found that the Thai fishing industry has enslaved men, children and women from the Greater Mekong Subregion.
In the US$7 billion (Bt250 billion) industry, seafaring labourers, often young men and boys, endure brutal treatment including severe and frequent physical abuse and threats, excessive and inhumane working hours, sleep and food deprivation, forced use of methamphetamines and long trips at sea confined to the vessel.
The Global Slavery Index covers 167 countries. Survey research for the 2016 Global Slavery Index included over 42,000 interviews conducted in 53 languages across 25 countries.
Some significant progress has been made by many governments since the publication of the 2014 report.
Andrew Forrest, chairman and founder of Walk Free Foundation, yesterday urged businesses to join efforts to fight slavery. His foundation incubated a global movement of supporters with a shared vision to end modern slavery.
“Businesses that don’t actively look for forced labour within their supply chains are standing on a burning platform.
“Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible,” he said.
Forced labour has also existed in some other fields in Thailand.
Domestic workers are predominantly women from rural areas, including ethnic minority communities, as well as neighbouring Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
Victims often report that their employers physically and sexually abuse them, confine them within the home or withhold their pay or identification documents, all of which render the victims’ ability to escape from their exploitation much more difficult, or impossible.
Thailand’s thriving sex industry, driven by both local and international demand, continues to fuel exploitation of women and children, both boys and girls.
Despite commercial prostitution being illegal in Thailand, it is practised openly. The armed violence in the country’s deep South also plays a part in modern slavery.
A Child Soldiers International study last year found children as young as 14 participating in hostilities in the southernmost region.
Children allegedly associated with armed groups continue to face administrative detention contrary to their need for shelter and rehabilitation.