Human Smugglers Work With Corrupt Thai Officials: UN Report

Security officers show smuggled migrant workers on the back of a pickup truck on May 26, 2017, in Kanchanaburi province.

BANGKOK — As much as 80 percent of irregular migrant workers were ferried into Thailand by smuggling services, sometimes with the help of corrupt Thai officials, a recent report by the United Nations said.

In a report released at a news conference last week, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said corruption and bribery are prevalent throughout the process of smuggling migrants into Thailand from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

“Some groups are reported to operate under the watch or control of corrupt officials who enable them to smuggle migrants into Thailand without interference,” part of the report said.

However, the same report noted that from 2012 to 2017, between 63,000 and 132,000 irregular migrants from Myanmar were apprehended each year while attempting to enter the Kingdom.

Read: Thai Postman Busted Smuggling Migrants in Mail Truck

It also said the number of non-Thai residents increased from an estimated 3.7 million in 2014 to 4.9 million in 2018. 80 per cent or approximately 3.9 million are migrant workers from neighboring Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam looking for higher paying jobs.

Smuggling services from Myanmar to Thailand cost roughly USD$400, while smuggling services from Cambodia or Laos to Thailand cost around USD$150, according to the paper,

The report said migrants find smuggling to be a “cheaper, less bureaucratic and otherwise easier option” and many smugglers can provide employment and accommodation in Thailand.

Between 41,000 and 151,000 Cambodians are detected each year attempting irregular entry into Thailand while the numbers from Laos are between 18,000 to 43,000, the report stated.

“Laotian migrants are vulnerable to exploitation in the commercial sex trade, garment factories, domestic services, agricultural and construction industries and the fishing and seafood sectors,” the report said.

Most vulnerable are Rohingya people from Myanmar fleeing persecution by boat to Thailand, Malaysia and beyond.

In 2017, 22 Thai government officials were convicted for involvement in the smuggling and trafficking of Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and the deaths of Rohingya and Bangladeshis in camps along the Thai-Malaysia border.

“Thai officials were convicted in 2017 of various charges including murder, torture, rape, money laundering and human trafficking. Some officials reportedly stopped some boats and demanded payment before allowing them to proceed,” the report said.

“To maximize their profits, knowing that law enforcement and border control agencies will seize or destroy the vessel if the clandestine journey is detected, smugglers typically crowd as many people as possible onto old and inexpensive vessels.”

It continued, “A number of smuggling boats have sunk or capsized, leading to the deaths of several hundred smuggled migrants and asylum seekers.”