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Sompong Srakaew

Thailand , Class of 2008

Sompong Srakaew

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Thailand exports a large amount of the world’s seafood, and Sompong Srakaew has set out to make sure they do this without using slave labor.

He founded the Labor Rights Promotion Network (LPN) in 2006 because of the injustices he saw in the treatment of migrant workers in Thailand’s seafood processing industry. Sompong began working on migrant worker issues as early as the 1990s, after graduating with a degree in social work. He comes from a small village near the Cambodian border, and was familiar with cross-border migration for work. After founding LPN, he has diligently pursued justice for migrant workers in Thailand, and attempted to assist them in claiming and asserting their rights wherever possible. In 2006, he coordinated with an incredible amount of organizations, including law enforcement, in order to raid a shrimp processing plant. In that raid, they liberated 66 Burmese workers who were trapped in a forced labor situation. Similarly, he advocated on behalf of a group of migrant workers who had been horribly mistreated, when 39 of their 99 crewmembers had starved to death at sea.

His advocacy directly led to the strengthening of the Thai laws about human trafficking. The 2008 Anti-Trafficking Act strengthened the provisions of the penal code that criminalize human trafficking. He was given a Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Award in 2008 in recognition of his efforts to combat modern-day slavery. Since 2008, he has continued to work tirelessly for migrants. He has set up model schools for migrant children, helped integrate them into public education, combated public perception of migrant workers, and has advocated for the participation of various commercial associations of industries that utilize the migrant work force. Several of those associations have agreed to finance Sompong’s schools programs for the children of migrants. He has also set up a partnership with a mobile phone company to spread information about labor rights and policies, so that people do not remain unaware of their rights under the law. Furthermore, he has consistently networked with other NGOs and the government to provide various networks of organizations co-operating on these issues.

In the 2014 TIP Report, Thailand was listed as Tier 3 country. It is a source, destination, and transit country for both forced labor and sex trafficking. The two or three million migrant workers in Thailand still present a vulnerable population, and are exploited in forced labor situations. The seafood industry is still fairly unregulated, and both processing plants and fishing vessels utilize forced labor. Sex trafficking also remains a large problem.

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