Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Related to the United States and Thailand readings answer the following 2 questions: Why is there so much trafficking in Thailand? Who are the relevant stakeholders? There ar - Very-Good Essays

Related to the United States and Thailand readings answer the following 2 questions: Why is there so much trafficking in Thailand? Who are the relevant stakeholders?  There ar

 Related to the United States and Thailand readings answer the following 2 questions:

Why is there so much trafficking in Thailand?

Who are the relevant stakeholders?   There are 7 stakeholders

For each actor, include the stakeholder's motivations concerning the policy, beliefs regarding the policy, and available resources as related to any aspect of the policy and its implementation 


Case Number 1991.0

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United States and Thailand: Diplomatic Wrangles in the War on Human Trafficking


Shortly after midnight on February 16, 2011, a police team raided a karaoke bar in Chiang Mai, a popular tour-

ist destination in northern Thailand. Based on reports that the karaoke bar was harboring young girls for prostitu-

tion, the 50-member police team charged into the building, commandeered the premises and captured everyone

inside. 1 The same night, at a hotel nearby, undercover police officers apprehended five more female employees of

the karaoke bar after they had agreed to paid sex. The operation rescued thirteen women including three girls un-

der the age of eighteen. The karaoke bar’s manager and several other male employees, also caught in the sweep,

were charged with human trafficking and procuring sexual services.

Thailand had been a major human trafficking hotspot for decades. According to the U.S. State Department,

Thailand was a “source, transit and destination for men, women, and children trafficked for… forced labor and

commercial sexual exploitation.” 2 Migrants from countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos made their way into

Thailand in search of better economic prospects. Many of them fell prey to vast, informal networks of traffickers

who led them, either through fraud or coercion, into abuse, exploitation, slavery and sometimes even death. While

migrant women from Myanmar, Cambodia, China, and as far as Uzbekistan, were commonly found serving in the

Thai sex industry, a significant number of people trafficked within or through Thailand—into neighboring Malaysia

and beyond—were ethnic minorities (called hill tribes) from rural parts of the country.

A year before the raid in Chiang Mai, Robert Griffiths (MPP 1982), Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S.

Embassy in Bangkok, braced himself for the possibility of serious diplomatic fallout. Griffiths was in charge of

providing the analysis on human trafficking in Thailand for the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Per-

sons report. Griffiths was acutely aware that the embassy’s account would play a key role in how the State De-

partment would perceive Thailand’s performance. Thailand was at risk of being put on a “watchlist” of countries

1 Description of raid adapted from Hit and Run: The Impact of Anti Trafficking Policy and Practice on Sex Workers’ Human Rights

in Thailand, Empower Foundation, 2012, pp. 74-9. 2 U.S. Department of State, “Trafficking in Persons Report,” June 2009, p. 279.

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HKS Case Program 2 of 14 Case Number 1991.0

making inadequate progress. For the Thai government, which took pride in its counter-trafficking efforts, such a

downgrade would constitute humiliation by a longtime friend. And for Griffiths, a senior representative of the U.S.

Foreign Service in Thailand, provoking the host government’s ire could imperil not only future collaboration

against human trafficking but also engagements on trade, intellectual property and security.

Global Trafficking in Persons: Definition and Estimates

Several million migrants, across the world, fled economic hardship, war, strife or oppression every year—

moving within their own country or illegally entering another. 3 According to the United Nations, migration slipped

into human trafficking when the vulnerabilities of migrants met force or fraud at the hands of traffickers. 4 Victims

of trafficking typically experienced a combination of physical and emotional abuse, threats against their families,

and confinement. Human trafficking took the form of forced labor, forced prostitution, bonded labor, debt-

bondage, domestic servitude and child labor.

In many parts of the world, trafficking flourished under hidden but well-established criminal networks. Not

surprisingly, calculating the precise number of people trafficked around the world had been notoriously difficult

and global estimates of the number of trafficking victims ranged widely. In 2010, the U.S. State Department calcu-

lated that more than 12 million people were trafficked both across and within borders. 5 A 2012 report by the In-

ternational Labor Organization (ILO) placed the total number of victims of all forms of trafficking at 21 million. Ac-

cording to the ILO report, nearly 70 percent of trafficking victims endured some kind of forced labor exploitation,

22 percent suffered forced sexual exploitation and the remainder toiled in state run factories or served in some

form of armed conflict. Women and girls made up the majority of victims; and the Asia Pacific region was home to

more than half the world’s trafficked persons. 6

Human trafficking resisted sustained efforts to curb it in large part because it was enormously lucrative. The

ILO estimated that global profits from trafficking in persons were approximately 32 billion dollars in 2008. 7 But ac-

cording to Siddharth Kara, Harvard University Fellow on Trafficking, worldwide “commercial exploitation of traf-

ficked sex slaves,” alone generated more than 51 billion dollars in 2007. 8

Career Foreign Service Officer

Griffiths had wanted to be part of the U.S. Foreign Service since he was a teenager. He first came to Thailand

in the 1970s as a Mormon missionary, learning to speak the language fluently. After receiving an undergraduate

degree from Brigham Young University and a Master in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Govern-

ment, Griffiths entered the U.S. Foreign Service and rose steadily through its ranks. In 1990, the one-time mission-

3 UNDP Human Development Report, “Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development,” 2009, p. 9.

4 For full U.N. definition of human trafficking,, accessed Feb- ruary 13, 2013, Found under: Palermo Protocol, Definition. 5 U.S. Department of State, “Trafficking in Persons Report: Tenth Edition,” June 2010, p. 7.

6 International Labor Organization, “2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labor,” Executive Summary, p. 1.

7 ILO, “ILO Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings,” 2008 p. 1

8 Siddharth Kara, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, 2009, p. 19.

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HKS Case Program 3 of 14 Case Number 1991.0

ary returned to Thailand as a diplomat. For three years, at the height of the global “war on drugs,” he helped run

the U.S. narcotics affairs unit in Bangkok. In 1993, Griffiths was made Labor Affairs officer, and worked with the

Thai government on eradicating child labor and prostitution. “Thai society is very open and relaxed. The ability to

get information even on issues like child prostitution was easy,” he said. 9 Griffiths learned quickly that when it

came to urging reform in Thailand, pointing a finger was far less effective than extending a hand in cooperation.

“We could work much better with the Thai by saying ‘we would like to work together. We have this great concern.

We know that you are concerned as well. How can we help deal with this problem?’” This insight helped Griffiths

broker a successful U.S.-Thai campaign against child prostitution.

After a total of six years in Thailand, Griffiths was posted to China and Washington D.C. for more than a dec-

ade but returned to Bangkok in 2007 as Counselor for Economic Affairs, responsible for a much wider portfolio

than in his previous stint. In the intervening years, the country he knew so well had experienced a radical trans-

formation. “The economic development was dramatic,” Griffiths said, “the income of the Thai people had in-

creased tremendously. The level of education had increased. From their perspective, things were clearly better.”

The Kingdom of Thailand

A constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government, Thailand began experiencing unprece-

dented economic growth in the 1990s. Unlike many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, Thailand rebounded quickly

from the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98. Often described as a “great development success story,” the country was

upgraded from lower to upper middle income status by the World Bank in 2011. 10

Between 2001 and 2011, Thai-

land doubled gross per capita national income and slashed the rate of poverty. 11

But as Thailand’s economy pros-

pered, the state of its neighbors to the north, west and east—Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia—remained precari-

ous. Myanmar languished under the grip of an increasingly oppressive dictatorship, while Laos and Cambodia could

not shake the burden of failed economic policies.

A series of events beginning in 2006, however, precipitated widespread unrest in Thailand and threatened to

shatter the country’s peace. Thai armed forces deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a 2006 coup. The

subsequent years marked one of the longest bouts of political instability in the country. A wave of large scale, vio-

lent protests in 2009 (led at first by anti-Thaksin “yellow shirt” groups) and again in 2010 (by Thaksin “red shirt”

supporters), appeared to weaken the Thai economy and bring the vital tourism industry to a grinding halt. It was

during this tumultuous time that Griffiths served as Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

9 All quotations attributed to Robert Griffiths were drawn from an interview conducted with the author on December 28, 2012.

10 World Bank Press Release, “Thailand Now an Upper Middle Income Economy,” August 2, 2011,, accessed Janu- ary 3, 2012. 11

World Bank Thailand Overview,, accessed January 3, 2012.

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HKS Case Program 4 of 14 Case Number 1991.0

A Longstanding Friendship

For nearly 200 years, the United States and Thailand had enjoyed an abiding friendship that had grown only

stronger in the early 2000s. Along with other allies in East Asia like Australia, Japan, South Korea and the Philip-

pines, Thailand, with its newfound regional clout, was of both economic and military importance to the U.S.

The security alliance between the U.S. and Thailand, first forged during the Korean and Vietnam wars, had ex-

panded under President George W. Bush. In 2003, the U.S. formally designated Thailand a major non-NATO ally.

Joining an elite group of only ten other countries at the time, this designation gave Thailand special privileges with

the U.S., including increased military aid and closer collaboration on defense research. In return, Thailand support-

ed U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a steadfast partner in the “war on terrorism.”

Despite the ongoing political unrest in Thailand, trade and economic ties between the two countries had con-

tinued to flourish in the late 2000s. The U.S. had long been one of Thailand’s biggest trading partners, export mar-

kets, and foreign direct investors. 12

At the start of Barack Obama’s Presidency, negotiations for a U.S.-Thai free

trade agreement had stalled but the new President viewed Thailand’s prominent role in the Association of South-

east Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a “crucial component” of his administration’s geopolitical vision in the region. 13


U.S. concerns about Thailand’s political and economic engagement with Myanmar’s repressive military govern-

ment, once a point of contention between the two countries, relaxed when Myanmar’s government began to insti-

tute reforms.

But the carefully nurtured U.S.-Thai partnership showed signs of fraying on human rights issues. Throughout

the 1990s, the two countries had collaborated to dismantle an international network of trade in illicit drugs and

small arms. But in the early 2000s, the U.S. grew increasingly alarmed at the strong-arm tactics Prime Minister

Thaksin Shinawatra employed under the mantle of the “war on drugs.” Compounding the chaos, the Thai military

overthrew the Thaksin government in 2006. Bloody protests choked the streets of Bangkok in 2009 and 2010, fur-

ther calling into question, from the U.S. perspective, Thailand’s ability to protect democratic institutions. But per-

haps the most unexpected source of discord in U.S-Thai bilateral relations was the fight against human trafficking.

The United States, Global Sheriff on Trafficking

In 2000, United Nations member states had been engaged in a bitter debate over a new international law on

trafficking, known informally as the Palermo Protocol. 14

That same year the U.S. Congress passed into law one of

the most comprehensive pieces of domestic legislation against human trafficking in the world—the Trafficking Vic-

tims Protection Act (TVPA).


Congressional Research Service, “Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations,” June 5, 2012, p. 15. 13

Transcript of speech, “A Renewed U.S.-Thai Alliance for the 21 st

Century,” by William J. Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, July 16, 2010,, ac- cessed January 3, 2012. 14

Officially: the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

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HKS Case Program 5 of 14 Case Number 1991.0

The TVPA described trafficking as an “evil requiring concerted and vigorous action by countries of origin, trans-

it, or destination” and established a framework unique in its “global reach.” 15

In particular, the law gave the U.S.

government the authority to impose sanctions on countries that did not comply with the “minimum standards for

the elimination of trafficking.” 16

And it required the State Department to report annually on the state of interna-

tional human trafficking. The U.S. had, in effect, appointed itself the “global sheriff on trafficking,” to the alarm of

countries that accused the U.S. of imposing a unilateral definition of trafficking on the rest of the world. 17

Annual TIP Reports and Tier Placements

The annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, issued by the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat

Trafficking in Persons, was arguably the most public component of the TVPA. Starting with the first report in 2001,

each TIP report assessed countries according to the TVPA’s three “Ps”: Prevention of trafficking in persons; Protec-

tion of trafficking victims; and Prosecution of traffickers.

In addition to the country assessments, the TIP report was required to rank countries in one of four tiers. Tier

1 countries fully complied with the minimum standards for anti-trafficking efforts stipulated in the American legis-

lation. Tier 2 countries did not fully comply with the standards but were making “significant efforts” to do so. Tier 3

countries neither complied with the standards nor were they trying. The fourth category, added later, was an in-

between status called the “Tier 2 Watchlist.” Countries on the watchlist faced any of three possible situations: a

rise in “severe forms of trafficking,” despite efforts to curtail them; no evidence that, in the previous year, there

had been an increase in efforts to combat trafficking; or the Tier 2 criterion of “significant efforts” had been de-

clared met only contingent on the government taking certain steps which it had failed to accomplish. 18

Watchlist countries would remain under the State Department’s close scrutiny. But if they were willing, their

governments could receive U.S. support to help make improvements. After two years on the watchlist, however, a

country would automatically drop to Tier 3 and face sanctions, unless the President issued a waiver based on the

government’s credible action plan for change.

The TIP reports and rankings were criticized on many fronts. In the initial years, the State Department was ac-

cused of “conflating trafficking with prostitution” and of not acknowledging the widespread problem of forced

labor. 19

The tier rankings drew attacks because of the United States’ failure, until 2010, to examine its own record


Janie Chuang, “The United States as Global Sheriff: Using Unilateral Sanctions to Combat Human Trafficking,” Michigan Jour- nal of International Law, Vol. 247, No. 2, 2006, pp. 437-94. 16

The minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking are divided into four sections. The first three minimum standards look at a nation’s legal framework to prohibit and adequately punish acts of trafficking, while the fourth standard, further di- vided into 11 criteria, is used to calibrate whether a country’s efforts are “serious and sustained.” The TVPA’s minimum stand- ards are similar to provisions in the Palermo Protocol. 17

Chuang, “The United States as Global Sheriff,” 2006. 18

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPA 2003), Pub. L. No. 108–193, H.R. 2620. 19 Anne Gallagher, “Improving the Effectiveness of the International Law of Human Trafficking: A Vision for the Future of the US Trafficking in Persons Reports,” Human Rights Review, Vol. 12, 2011, pp. 381-400.

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HKS Case Program 6 of 14 Case Number 1991.0

on fighting trafficking in persons. And many critics charged that the grading process was largely subjective and too

reliant on unverifiable data to justify the sanctions it triggered.

Despite the criticisms—or perhaps because of them—the annual release of countries’ tier standings garnered

widespread attention. Mark Taylor, Senior Coordinator for Reports and Political Affairs at the Office to Monitor

and Combat Trafficking in Persons had overseen all the TIP reports since 2003. He believed that the reports “had

gained respect—in some cases grudging respect—as an index for trafficking around the world. There are plenty of

detractors out there, some of them have legitimate complaints and some don’t. I’ve seen people who normally

would not take kindly to a unilateral report like this and agree that it has produced reform. And we’ve evolved. I

wince at some of the analysis we did back in 2003 and 2004 when we didn’t have as mature an understanding of

victim care.” 20

As they compiled each year’s report, Taylor and his team used inputs from NGOs working within and across

countries, as well as studies from respected groups like Human Rights Watch. But the bulk of the information that

shaped the ratings in the TIP report came from U.S. embassies in the relevant countries. In 2010, Robert Griffiths

would have to manage the TIP submission for Thailand—a key ally—where the report was at once controversial

and influential.

Human Trafficking in Thailand

The promise of a better life typically attracted a flood of migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos into

Thailand. In 2007, an estimated 1.8 to 3 million migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos accounted for 5 to 10

percent of the Thai workforce. 21

Long stretches of porous borders and relatively lax immigration controls allowed

migrants easy entry into the country—but also left them vulnerable to trafficking by human smugglers. According

to a 2006 ILO report, “Thailand had emerged as the number one destination in the cross-border trafficking of chil-

dren and women,” in the greater Mekong sub-region. 22

Many observers noted the rampant exploitation of migrants working in Thailand. The gamut of abuse ranged

from being underpaid and having to work long hours to more egregious forms of forced labor and sexual slavery.

According to leading international rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, “undocumented migrants… [were]

forced to work in factories, commercial sex establishments, fishing boats, and domestic service workers” under

“Thai employers who [compelled] them to work at jobs through use of threats, force, and physical confinement.” 23


All quotations attributed to Mark Taylor were drawn from an interview with the author on January 18, 2013. 21 Philip Martin, “The Contribution of Migrant Workers to Thailand: Towards Policy Development,” 2007, p. xi. 22 Elaine Pearson, “The Mekong Challenge-Underpaid, Overworked, and Overlooked: The Realities of Young Migrant Workers in Thailand,” (Volume 1), 2006, p. xvii. 23

Human Rights Watch, “From the Tiger to the Crocodile: Abuse of Migrant Workers in Thailand,” 2010, p. 52.

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HKS Case Program 7 of 14 Case Number 1991.0

Forced Labor

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division described one of the many ways a mi-

grant could become a victim of trafficking. 24

To move within Thailand as a migrant worker, you can’t just walk from the border to

Bangkok or get on a bus. There are various police check points. The migrants don’t

speak the language. They have probably never been to Thailand and will be deported if

they are caught by the police. Migrants going from a place like Mae Sot near the Thai-

Myanmar border down to the central plains in Bangkok are probably going to have to

hire a broker, or people smuggler to take them through. Those costs could be anywhere

from 12,000-15,000 Baht (approximately $400). Often, the migrant workers don’t have

the money. So it’s a ‘travel now, pay later’ kind of plan. The problem occurs when the

broker says, for instance, ‘I will transfer you to Samut Sakhon,’ a province with a major

food processing (particularly sea food) industry, ‘for a certain amount of money and I

will arrange for you to get a job. When you get the job, your salary will be deducted to

pay me back.’ But the people smugglers are essentially selling the migrants to the facto-

ries. The migrants incur the debt which is deducted from their salaries and end up in

bonded labor situations. Sometimes the owners put locks on doors or they have facto-

ries ringed with barbed wire and armed guards. People are forced to work 18 to 20

hours a day, not making any money. Essentially, they are in forced labor prison—a hu-

man trafficking situation.

Sex Trafficking

The path to sex trafficking for vulnerable migrant women and girls traced a similar arc. “Some women know

what they are getting in to, they do it voluntarily. Although they might lose control or they might see that they

weren’t expecting to be detained. Others might have been promi

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