Bangladesh the new frontline for human trafficking

CHRIS UHLMANN: The ruling Thai Military says a group of Bangladeshi nationals, believed to be the victims of slave traders, are receiving “appropriate treatment”.

Thai police say they now have in custody more than 130 people, mainly from Bangladesh who say they were forced to board boats to Thailand.

Human TraffickingBangladesh is now the new frontline for human traffickers, but Thai authorities say they have little resources to stop them.

South East Asia correspondent, Samantha Hawley reports from Bangkok.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The journey across the Bay of Bengal to Thailand takes just under a week.

And it’s a route increasingly full of human misery, where boats are filled with the most vulnerable and helpless: the victims of human trafficking.

CHRIS LEWER: Many of them claim that they had been put on a boat against their will.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Chris Lewer is the director general of the human rights group The Arakan Project.

She says there are so many boats and brokers now vying for business in Bangladesh that passengers are being abducted and beaten and then sold to traffickers.

CHRIS LEWER: The trafficking spreading networks in Bangladesh and at the border on that side in the Bay of Bengal has been expanding a lot in the last few months; some of the agents they try desperately to try and fill up the boats.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: And from all accounts the boats are full. In the latest known case, Thai police discovered more than 100 deeply traumatised Bangladesh citizens hiding in three locations in the Thai state of Phang Nga.

They had been reportedly beaten, abused and left with no food and they’ve spoken of how they were abducted and forced to leave their homeland.

It’s being dubbed the modern day slave trade.

(Sound of Chtoe Chidchai speaking in Thai)

Thai police have confirmed the group are the victims of human traffickers and at least two Thai men have been charged.

Police Colonel Chote Chidchai is in charge of the investigation.

“We are questioning them and gathering all the evidence” he says. “We are also gathering the evidence to prosecute the human traffickers”.

But Thailand has an abominable track record.

The US State Department’s annual human trafficking ranking has Thailand as one of the worst in the world.

(Sound of Chtoe Chidchai speaking in Thai)

“Police have limited resources,” the Colonel says. “We do not have boats; we get help from fisherman and from village chiefs”.

A statement from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, due to Thailand’s economic growth, migrants from neighbouring countries continuously enter the country through more than 5,000 kilometres of land borders.

It says the government has made the issue a national priority to come up with a long term practical solution.

This is Samantha Hawley in Bangkok reporting for AM.