Labour Migration and Human Trafficking between Cambodia and Thailand: the Way Forward

A Multi-stakeholders’ Exchange of Knowledge and Practices 
to Enhance Rights and Protection

Bangkok, 7th of May 2018

1.2 million Cambodians work overseas every year: over 90% in Thailand. Less than 30% of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand migrated through official channels. The Thai and the Cambodian Governments have attempted to address these issues by introducing laws and measures to promote safe migration and to prevent human trafficking. What are these measures? How effective are they? What else should be done? The International Conference “Labour Migration and Human Trafficking between Cambodia and Thailand: The Way Forward.” seeks answers for the above questions and promotes dialogue to enhance the rights and protection of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand.


The event is organised in the framework of the EU funded project “MIG-RIGHT: supporting and advocating Cambodian migrants’ rights in Thailand, preventing violations and human trafficking” (EIDHR/2016/376-943) carried out by GVC, Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN) and Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), in Cambodia and Thailand. The aim of the Conference is to further contribute to the dialogue between sending and receiving countries. The event also represents an opportunity for a high-level exchange among key actors involved in the promotion of safe channels of migration between Cambodia and Thailand and the eradication of human trafficking and labour exploitation, namely: representatives of the Thai and Cambodian Governments, EU Delegations, UN Agencies and Civil Society Organisations. The economic imbalance between Thailand and Cambodia and the labour shortage in Thailand has led to a large-scale migration of workers. Every year the number of Cambodian migrants in Thailand increases dramatically. Thailand and Cambodia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2003 and another revision in 2015 to bring regular Cambodian migrant workers to Thailand.

However, so far, only a small number of Cambodian migrants (less than 30%) are migrating to Thailand through the MoU system in comparison with the number of migrants passing the border via irregular channels. Migrants in unsafe conditions are more vulnerable to human trafficking and all kinds of abuses. Legal channels provided by the MoU between the two Countries and the regularization process for undocumented migrants workers in Thailand are not easily accessible to migrants for a number of constraints such as the complexity of the documentation procedure, costs and limited information. The Thai and Cambodian Governments have attempted to address such issues by introducing laws and measures to promote safe migration and to prevent human trafficking. Nevertheless, these important efforts are still not sufficient and their application presents shortcomings, in some cases even deceiving legislative intentions. During the Conference, the participants will have the opportunity to share information, knowledge and practices to better understand the real situation in the field, the state of play in terms of updated legal and policy framework and to discuss possible ways to further enhance the rights and protection of labour migrants.

The first part of the Conference is dedicated to an introductory presentation of the legal framework and policies for Cambodian migrants in Thailand, as well as the gaps and challenges that these regulations and policies still pose. On this occasion, the research “Labour Migration and Human Trafficking: an analysis of laws, regulations and policies in Thailand and Cambodia” carried out by Prof. Kyoko Kusakabe from the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, in the framework of the MIG-RIGHT project, will also be presented. The research will contribute to the development of the discussion in the subsequent working groups foreseen in the morning as indicated in the event programme. Four working groups are foreseen, each one will focus on a different aspect of the issue, with the main objective of analysing problems and difficulties faced by Cambodian migrants workers in Thailand from the sending to the receiving country. The first group will be oriented to examine every single phase of the regularization process, trying to understand whether adequate and effective measures have been considered to fight and prevent human trafficking, which constraints affect the access to safe migration channels, and which challenges must be faced to make regular migration an advantage. The second group will focus on the rights of migrant workers, both documented and undocumented, in order to underline which protections and guarantees these may have access to in terms of respect of minimum wages, mobility within the labour market, freedom of association and of social protection. In fact, the current system still does not make it easy for migrant workers to change their employer, even in the case of abuses perpetrated by the latter, as well as not allowing migrants to create their own union organisations, or to assume responsibilities in the Thai trade unions. So, how can they protect themselves from mistreatment and exploitation?

What is the effective role of Private Recruiting Agencies in monitoring and protecting migrants? The third group will face the debate on the definitions of human trafficking and labour exploitation, to highlight the grey areas existing between the two, and how this affects the kind of protection victims can have access to. Last but not least, the fourth group will consider the gender perspective of labour migration from Cambodia. It's a matter of fact that women (50% of the migrant population to Thailand) represent the most vulnerable group and most subject to all forms of discrimination (gender wage gaps, absence of social protection and maternity guarantees, etc.), slavery and human trafficking. The results emerging from the working groups will stimulate the discussion within the panels foreseen in the afternoonas indicated in the event programme . The panels are held with the contribution of Government representatives from both countries, representatives of UN agencies and civil society organisations, who will question themselves on how to overcome the gaps and difficulties underlined and, finally, what protection can actually be guaranteed to migrant workers. This Conference represents the first step of a dialogue process that will see other two appointments during the next two years in Cambodia and Thailand.


Via Francesco Baracca 3, 40133 Bologna
T +39 051585604 | F +39 051582225
C.F. 97241280151

Follow us on