BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In an undercover operation at a guesthouse in the border town of Ranong, police arrested a Thai woman suspected of human trafficking, and rescued 13 Burmese women, including four under 18 who were forced into prostitution, The Nation reported.
According to the paper, the police organised the sting over the weekend following a tipoff from the anti-trafficking group FREELAND Foundation.
The police found that the four girls under 18 were reportedly assaulted and forced into prostitution, while the nine other women had entered Thailand illegally, said the paper.
A 32-year-old woman was arrested and faces charges including procuring girls under 18 for prostitution and molestation, and harbouring aliens, it added.
“Investigations suggest the girls are victims of a network run by Thai and Burmese criminals and corrupt officers,” the FREELAND Foundation said in a statement, adding there is a need for a wider investigation.
“It's vital that this case continue. It's the tip of an ugly iceberg of human greed, corruption and abuse,” Steven Galster, director of FREELAND, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Thailand is a source, transit point and destination for tens of thousands of trafficked people who end up in the sex industry and as forced labour.
For four years in a row, the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report has placed Thailand under the Tier 2 Watch List, the second lowest ranking.
The latest report said, “The Government of Thailand does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government has not shown sufficient evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year.”
CHALLENGES OF BUSTING TRAFFICKERS
Thailand passed an Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2008 and has established teams in every province to target human trafficking, but corrupt officials, weak enforcement and inadequate protection and identification of victims continue to mar the efforts.
“It's very difficult to bust a trafficking operation unless an officer has a warrant, and to get that, evidence must show that trafficking is occurring under that business or person. To get that evidence is dangerous. To get the warrant risks leaking the undercover enforcement operation,” Galster said.
“Then if an enforcement action does take place, the victims realize that if they confess to being a victim, they may get stuck in Baan Kretakan (a government-run safe house) for months and risk shame with their family or friends, not to mention revenge by the trafficker.”