On November 18th, the Walk Free Foundation published its annual report on modern slavery, the “Global Slavery Index 2014.” According to the report in 2014 an estimated number of 35.8 million people are enslaved around the world.
According to this report, Thailand ranks 44th on the index out of the 167 countries surveyed for having the highest prevalence of modern slavery. (Mauritania ranks 1st and Iceland ranking 167th.) As of 2014, about 0.709% of Thailand’s population, or a total number of 475,000 people, are victims of modern slavery.
The Walk Free Foundation found that migrant workers and domestic minorities are particularly at risk of becoming victims of modern slavery. The most common forms of modern day slavery are sex trafficking, forced begging, domestic work, fishing, manufacturing, and agricultural industries.
The Thai fishing industry is under special scrutiny after a survey given by the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that out of 600 fishers employed on Thai boats, 16.9% (about 101 people) identified themselves as being unable to leave their job because of threatened penalties. This qualifies them as victims of forced labor.
The domestic servitude sector is another field of special scrutiny, because there are reports of excessive working hours, lack of days off, confinement, and physical and sexual abuse. Women and girls are most likely to become victims of slavery in this sector.
The still-growing Thai tourism sector is a special threat to children who are at risk to become victims of different forms of slavery. They are the preferred pawns in exploitation related to tourism, because of tourists’ lack of awareness and easily given sympathy. Examples of such jobs are orphanage tourism, street begging, street vending, and giving guided tours and street performances in popular tourist destinations.
Two of the four recommendations of Walk Free Foundation to the Thai government are:
– Provide legal status for minority groups and stateless persons in Thailand
-Develop child education programs and health and protection systems (including appropriate services and treatment of migrant children workshops)
DEPDC’s main objective is to provide the aforementioned persons with a quality education and adequate support to deter these people from being lured into sex labor, exploitative working conditions, and other forms of modern slavery. At our Patek Half-Day School, children who are ineligible to study at a government school receive a basic education, and in our shelters in Mae Chan and Chiang Khong, children who are determined “high-risk” of being forced or seduced into human trafficking can find a safe place to stay and are also able to receive an education that reduces the risk of being exploited.