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Snap Shot Stories: Invisible Victims of Trafficking in Thailand

By Mahidol Migration Center  •  October 4, 2011

Thailand’s rapid economic growth has created wealth and opportunities. Development has resulted in increased demand for labour, or to be more precise, cheap low skilled foreign labour to do dirty, dangerous and difficult work that Thais often will not themselves do. To sustain a growing economy and in order to compete in international markets for low cost export of goods, Thailand continues to be dependent on a cheap migrant workforce of more than 2 million people.

However for more than two decades since the early 1990s, policy makers in Thailand have not, at least until more recently, been willing or able to effectively regularise migration flows into the country. As a result, and left without legal and official means to enter Thailand, migrant workers, employers and industries employing migrants turn to smugglers to get workers into the country to fill significant gaps in the labour market. These smugglers, usually referred to as ‘brokers,’ may be complete strangers to the migrant workers themselves. But sometimes they are closely linked to friends and relatives. Links with officials on both sides of Thailand’s borders is an undeniable reality.

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