Thailand’s child labour crisis: Migrant children left unprotected

Photo courtesy of Thai PBS World

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are sounding the alarm: Thailand will miss its goal of ending child labour by 2025 unless it extends its efforts to include migrant children.

Cross-Cultural Foundation President Surapong Kongchantuk stated that an estimated 100,000 child migrants have arrived in Thailand since late last year alone.

“But our country has no measures to take care of them.”

The foundation promotes and protects human rights in Thailand. Speaking ahead of the World Day Against Child Labour tomorrow, Surapong highlighted the pressing issue.

Thai law grants all children the right to 15 years of free education. However, migrant children are unable to attend school unless given special permission by the authorities, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

“If children don’t go to school, they go into the labour market.”

In 2022, official figures showed 948 children were forced into the worst forms of labour in Thailand, a dramatic drop from previous years. Nevertheless, the drug trade continues to be responsible for over 90% of these cases.

Thailand’s Department of Labour Protection and Welfare reported that of the 948 children involved in the worst child labour in 2022, 860 were engaged in the narcotics trade, 76 in prostitution, and 12 in other hazardous jobs. The US Department of Labour acknowledges Thailand’s moderate advances in protecting children but criticises its failure to meet international standards.

Migrant children fleeing conflict or hardship are particularly at risk. Unable to enter overcrowded refugee camps, many move to areas like Samut Sakhon and Bangkok, where they face illegal work conditions and exploitation.

“They are at risk of human trafficking or crimes.”

Adisorn Kerdmongkol of the Migrant Working Group revealed that Thai farms are exploiting children under 15, exposing them to hazardous agricultural chemicals. He also opposed amendments allowing children to intern in the fishing industry, stressing the importance of preserving the ban on child labour in fisheries.

Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn affirmed Thailand’s commitment to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes the eradication of child labour by 2025. However, without comprehensive measures, including protections for migrant children, Thailand’s goal remains out of reach, reported Thai PBS World.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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