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Partnering to End Forced Labor in Southeast Asia

Research Studies in Cambodia and Thailand Analyzing Forced Labor and Other Exploitation Among Migrant Workers, and Justice System Responses

Research Studies Funded by the Walmart Foundation

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BACKGROUND

International Justice Mission partnered with National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (NORC) and Research and Communications Group (RCG), with funding from the Walmart Foundation, to conduct five in-depth research studies of forced labor across Southeast Asia in 2022.

Migrant Worker Experiences

Thailand and Cambodia; with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC)


In Cambodia, the study sought to obtain prevalence estimates of cross-border forced labor and assess the level of victimization and unique vulnerability driving trafficking for forced labor among surveyed respondents. In Thailand, the study assessed the safety and health risks, including forced labor, among Myanmar and Cambodian migrants and explored individuals' access to justice.

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Analysis of Cross-Border Forced Labor in Cambodia
Study on Safety, Health, and Labor Exploitation Risks Among Myanmar and Cambodian Migrants in Thailand
KEY FINDINGS
  • Based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) forced labor indicators, 40% of Cambodian migrant workers who had returned to Cambodia experienced forced labor during their work in destination countries.
    Source: Analysis of Cross-Border Forced Labor Study in Cambodia



  • Although the study was not designed to estimate rates of forced labor in any specific sector, among surveyed respondents in Thailand, the following proportion had experienced forced labor based on ILO’s definition:
    ⁃ 24% from the fishing industry
    ⁃ 22% from service industry
    ⁃ 15% from construction
    ⁃ 15% from factory work.
    Source: Study on Safety, Health and Labor Exploitation Risks Among Myanmar and Cambodian Migrants in Thailand.



  • 53% of Cambodian migrant workers who have returned to Cambodia, 20% of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand and 22% of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand experienced abuse at work and were unable to quit because of fears of serious consequences. These consequences included confiscation of one’s accrued earnings, valuables and/or identification documents, deliberate efforts to ruin one’s reputation, or threats to call in the authorities.
    Source: Analysis of Cross-Border Forced Labor Study in Cambodia and Study on Safety, Health and Labor Exploitation Risks Among Myanmar and Cambodian Migrants in Thailand



  • To secure a job in the destination countries, Cambodian migrant workers had to take out an average loan of 890 USD, which was higher than the average fee to obtain a job (400 USD). The debt burden migrant workers carry from excessive recruitment fees and other expenses contributes to increased vulnerability to forced labor violations in destination countries.
    Source: Analysis of Cross-Border Forced Labor Study in Cambodia



  • Social-family networks were the dominant recruitment channel among all migrant workers.
    Source: Analysis of Cross-Border Forced Labor Study in Cambodia and Study on Safety, Health and Labor Exploitation Risks Among Myanmar and Cambodian Migrants in Thailand



  • 17% of migrant workers from Cambodia and 18% of migrant workers from Myanmar experienced forced labor during their employment in Thailand.
    Source: Study on Safety, Health and Labor Exploitation Risks Among Myanmar and Cambodian Migrants in Thailand

Justice System Effectiveness

Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, with the Research and Communications Group (RCG)


The studies assess the effectiveness of the Thai and Cambodian Justice Systems in responding to cases of cross-border forced labor and trafficking in persons (FL/TIP), and the co-operation and coordination occurring between Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.

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Justice System’s Response to Cross-Border Forced Labor and Trafficking in Cambodia
Justice System’s Response to Cross-Border Forced Labor and Trafficking in Thailand
KEY FINDINGS

Regional

  • Legal migration pathways are not designed to protect migrant workers from abuse.
  • Cross-border criminal justice cooperation is occurring among senior officials but only limited and informally at an operational level.


Cambodia

  • Data collection and information sharing is lacking within and between government ministries and departments.
  • Police capacity to investigate at the local level is frequently inadequate for producing case evidence and establishing case facts at trial.
  • The court system remains unattractive for remediation, so victims continue to settle cases for informal payments.


Thailand

  • Migrant workers from neighboring countries remain the most vulnerable demographic of workers to forced labor, labor trafficking and other exploitative employment practices in Thai industries.
  • Despite increases in stakeholder confidence in the justice system since 2016, migrant workers preferred to avoid speaking out or reporting exploitation out of concern for their own safety.
  • Overall, stakeholder confidence in the criminal justice system’s effectiveness in securing justice and deterring labor trafficking and forced labor has increased in the last six years.

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More Information

Petra Kooman

Director of Marketing and Public Relations
pkooman@ijm.ca
519.679.5030 x.229

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