Govt sets up hotline for Thais abroad

Mascots are shown at the signing ceremony for an agreement to develop an international hotline (+66-99-130-1300) for Thais who fall prey to human trafficking in foreign countries. People can either call or text the number free of charge.‚ÄČ(Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

The government has set up an international hotline to tackle human trafficking and other “threats” that Thai nationals can call from anywhere in the world, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Friday.

The 24-hour hotline (+66-99-130-1300) will be buttressed by an SMS alert system to hasten assistance to victims, he said.

“The government is very firm in taking good care of vulnerable groups, such as Thai women who live in other countries or who are married to foreigners, or victims of human trafficking,” he said.

In 2013, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security set up a domestic hotline (1300) to help provide social assistance to both Thais and foreigners living in Thailand.

But no call centre has until now been available to assist Thais who live or travel abroad.

Anukul Peedkaew, director of the ministry’s inspection division, said the newly introduced hotline will act as an intermediary between various agencies.

“The call centre will hasten and strengthen the process by which help is given to Thais who are victims of human trafficking in other countries,” he said, adding it will help domestic bodies work more smoothly with Thai consular offices, Thai communities abroad and Interpol.

Mr Anukul said the SMS alert system has been successfully integrated with the hotline. It can help pinpoint the exact location where help is needed and is useful for record keeping, he added.

When a call is received, the centre records it in its database and the person is notified their case is being reviewed. Staff then alert the appropriate agency and are able to use the call back system to liaise with the victim.

The call centre has 15 support lines in the morning, 10 in the afternoon and five in the evening. Volunteer interpreters are on standby to make sure nothing gets lost in translation, officials said.

Cases are evaluated in terms of risk and urgency, with the most time sensitive shuffled to the top of the pack. The centre may the consular affairs office of the country where the person is calling from as an initial step, they said.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, said the cost of the SMS service will depend on the location of the sender but will be a very low rate, while direct calls to the call centre will be free.

Data compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year showed there are now 1.1 million Thais living overseas, 75% of whom are female. Many are seen as vulnerable targets for traffickers.

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