Stung by international criticism, Thai officials turn to media to help combat human trafficking

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Denounced internationally for the past two years for their inability to combat human trafficking, Thai officials are hoping the media can educate people about the dangers of the slavery rings.

Speaking during an April 27 media tour in Pattaya, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security Secretary Phanita Kamphu na Ayuthaya tried to persuade reporters that Thailand’s blacklisting on a U.S. human-trafficking watch list in 2010 and 2011 was unwarranted. The ministry, she maintained, makes combating traffickers a priority and has worked to combat it by educating people about the risks and repercussions of trafficking, as well as partnering with neighboring countries.

Ministry of Social Development and Human Security Secretary Phanita Kamphu na Ayuthaya says her ministry makes combating traffickers a priority. Ministry of Social Development and Human Security Secretary Phanita Kamphu na Ayuthaya says her ministry makes combating traffickers a priority.

However, Phanita admitted, incidents of trafficking of women and children have increased in frequency and severity. That is due, she maintained, to changes in tactics by traffickers.

Taking reporters on a tour of Sunee Plaza and Walking Street, Phanita and Department of Special Investigations Chonburi representative Somchai Siroroj pointed out the sex workers, beggars and street peddlers, claiming traffickers brought many to the nightlife districts.

Phanita explained to reporters that trafficking goes beyond bringing Cambodians and Burmese into Thailand. Aggressive traffickers are also targeting Thais; using boys to fraudulently solicit alms, tricking women into marriages with foreigners and enslaving men in overseas labor. The biggest increase in trafficking is coming from Japan and Korea, she said.

Phanita admitted Thai officials fear the blacklisting will cost them international aid, so they’ve turned to the media for help. Using television, radio, the Internet and mobile devices, the ministry will step up its publicity campaign and hope that people understand the message that Thais are at risk of being trafficked and not to contribute to street people.

Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome also took advantage of the camera spotlights to tout his own achievements over his first term, saying arrests of trafficked street vendors fell from 600 in 2005 to 200 in 2011.

Arresting actual traffickers, however, is more difficult because they are hard to find, the mayor said. So beggars and urchins are simply deported which, he admits, only contributes to a “vicious circle.”