February 11, 2015
Attorney General of Thailand Trakul Winitnaiyapak (LLM ’75), who took office in 2014, explains his country's efforts to eliminate human trafficking to a Tulane Law School audience Feb. 10.
Brendan Hughes (L ’17) chats with Thai Attorney General Trakul Winitnaiyapak (LLM ’75) after his public address.
Photos by Zack Smith Photography
Eradicating human trafficking requires cooperation and collaboration of many nations, Thailand’s attorney general told a Tulane Law School audience Feb. 10.
Human trafficking “inflicts serious wounds and instills trauma” in its victims, said Trakul Winitnaiyapak (LLM ’75). “We all have the obligation to prevent and punish such crimes.”
He said that “enhancing international cooperation is needed so traffickers are punished no matter where they are and victims are fully protected no matter where they come from.”
Winitnaiyapak, who became attorney general in mid-2014, spent the day at Tulane, meeting with students in a new multidisciplinary class on human trafficking law, taking part in a roundtable sponsored by the Payson Center for International Development and discussing law enforcement concerns with U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite and agents from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.
Winitnaiyapak’s visit was part of a tour that includes stops in Chicago and Los Angeles, which has the largest Thai community in the U.S. He also was scheduled to meet with members of the New Orleans Thai community.
Thailand has been working since 2008 to implement an anti-trafficking law and last year adopted a five-point program focused on policy, prosecution, prevention, protection and partnership, Winitnaiyapak said. In 2014, he said, 280 cases of human trafficking were investigated, and 104 of the 155 defendants prosecuted were convicted. Of the 595 victims identified, 222 were involved in sexual exploitation.
During a special session, students in Tulane Law's new human trafficking course, taught by Eden House Executive Director Kara Van de Carr (L ’98), ask Thai Attorney General Trakul Winitnaiyapak (LLM ’75) about forced labor in his country.
Thailand attracts millions of migrant workers, and the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 estimated that tens of thousands of victims are forced into exploitative labor or the sex trade. The report recommended that Thailand prosecute more human trafficking crimes, seize traffickers’ assets; improve services for victims; and increase anti-trafficking awareness efforts.
Winitnaiyapak said that, because many human trafficking victims in Thailand have come from neighboring countries, primarily Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Laos, Thailand has set up nine shelters along its borders to provide medical attention, legal aid and other services, with special care for child victims.
And while training of government officials is improving, he said, “still a lot of officials do not understand how to deal with this type of case.”
He spent more than 30 minutes fielding questions from students and faculty members in the audience on issues such as parents selling their children, the problem of forced labor in the fishing industry and the government's efforts to combat corruption among police and other officials.
Winitnaiyapak said he learned about the American way of life as an American Field Service high school exchange student in 1968-69. Because of that experience, he set a goal of returning to the United States for a graduate law degree.
“Without Tulane Law School, I would not be standing here,” he said. After studying subjects such as the code of criminal procedure, he said, he became determined that “I would do my best to try to protect the rights of the people.”