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Thailand: New Criminal Court Division for Human Trafficking Cases

(Aug. 12, 2015) According to Thailand Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, a new criminal court division to handle human trafficking cases was to open on August 10, 2015; an announcement of the establishment of the new division was made in the country’s Royal Gazette. (Thailand: Activists, Experts Welcome Slave Trade Court, BANGKOK POST ONLINE (Aug. 1, 2015), Open Source Center online subscription database ID No. SER2015080107827704; New Criminal Court Division Set Up to Tackle Human Trafficking Crimes, THAI ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING ACTION (June 15, 2015).) Two other new court divisions were also established, one for handling cases involving corrupt state officials and the other for dealing with drug trafficking cases. (New Criminal Court Division Set Up to Tackle Human Trafficking Crimes, supra.)

Criminal court judges have indicated they will have a policy of concluding all human trafficking cases within six months of the cases reaching the court, and while it might be necessary to extend the handling of some cases, verdicts should be reached and the cases closed “within one year at the most.” (Id.) These steps were reportedly announced by the Office of the Judiciary, an independent secretariat of the Courts of Justice, in December 2014; other measures include giving priority to certain court procedures related to human trafficking, such as the use of videoconferencing for witness testimonies outside Thailand and of professional translators in the courtroom. (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Thailand, in TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT 2015, at 332 [choose “Report” from left column, then click on “Country Narratives: T-Z and Special Case (PDF),” and scroll down to Thailand section].)

The 2015 Trafficking in Persons report published by the U.S. State Department has pointed out some of the existing weaknesses in Thailand’s criminal justice system vis-a-vis handling human trafficking cases. The reported noted that while “[t]he justice system increased the speed at which it resolved criminal cases for most cases, … some trafficking cases continued to take three years or longer to reach completion.” Moreover, “[s]ome suspected offenders fled the country or intimidated victims after judges granted bail, further contributing to a climate of impunity for trafficking crimes.” (Id.) Spokesman Wanchai Rujanawong of the country’s Office of the Attorney-General deemed the establishment of the human trafficking division of the court “an important tool to speed up the court process and boost its performance.” (Thailand: Activists, Experts Welcome Slave Trade Court, supra.)