Thailand has the highest number of enslaved people in Southeast Asia, and 7th largest in the world, according to a new index by anti-slavery charity Walk Free Foundation.
It defined modern slavery as human trafficking, forced labor, and practices such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and the sale or exploitation of children.
The index found that just 10 countries accounted for 76 percent of the 29.8 million people living in slavery in the world. Those 10 nations are India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
The index also ranked 162 countries based on the number living in slavery, the risk of enslavement, and government responses in combating the illegal activity.
Thailand ranked 24th out of the 162 countries on that list, and was singled out as a hub of exploitation within the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Most of the victims of modern slavery in Thailand are migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, while Thai women are especially vulnerable to trafficking into the forced domestic and sex industries around the globe, according to a Bangkok Post report on the index.
The Thai fishing industry was singled out with a large portion of its 200,000 migrant workers subjected to forced labor and trafficking.
It said the trafficking of both adults and children is a problem in Thailand, with victims sent to countries such as China, Germany, Israel, Japan, South Africa, and the USA.
Mauritania ranked first on the modern slavery index, with the highest percentage of its population enslaved. The West African nation has an estimated 150,000 slaves in a population of 3.8 million. Haiti ranked second and Pakistan third.
However, the index found nearly 75 percent of the world’s slaves were in the wider Asia region.
The nations with the highest absolute number of slaves were India with 14 million, and China with 3 million.
Researchers dismissed the view that poverty was the key factor behind slavery, and instead blamed corruption, said a Reuters report.
“Consistently when we analysed the statistics we found that corruption came out as more powerful than poverty in driving slavery,” said researcher Kevin Bales, a professor of contemporary slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in northern England.
In last place on the index were Iceland, Ireland, and Britain, though even they were not slavery-free. Image/andrew-drummond.com