In the 21st century, our world has evolved into one without borders, propelled by advancements in science, technology, global trade, and increased human mobility. While this has made human society more convenient and interdependent, it has also introduced new challenges known as Non-Traditional Security (NTS) threats. Unlike traditional military threats, NTS threats are diverse, rapidly spreading, and have broad-ranging impacts on societies. These challenges encompass environmental changes, climate-related issues, resource scarcity and competition, pandemics, abnormal population movements, human trafficking, transnational drug trade, cybercrimes, and their implications on the well-being and survival of both individuals and states.

Addressing these new security challenges requires a transnational approach, as diverse actors are involved, and individual states cannot tackle them independently. Collaboration and solutions are essential across economic, social, and political dimensions, posing a significant challenge for Thailand. The country faces various forms of NTS threats due to its role as a hub, transit point, and destination for these challenges. Thailand’s ability to manage and cope with these issues requires active participation and cooperation from its citizens.

Therefore, it is crucial for the public, especially those living in border areas, to be aware of these challenges. Border regions are often considered frontline areas for these issues, susceptible and known for natural routes for illegal activities such as drug trafficking, wildlife trafficking, and even human trafficking. Enhancing relationships between citizens to cope with the new security challenges in the Mekong River Basin is a project initiated by the Department of Local Administration, Ministry of Interior. The project is funded by the Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund (MKCF), aiming to promote regional cooperation to effectively address cross-border crimes in the Thai-Lao and Thai-Cambodian border areas efficiently and comprehensively.

The project specifically targets three significant challenges: human trafficking, cross-border drug smuggling, and illegal border crossings. These challenges have direct and indirect impacts on Thai society and neighboring countries. The victims of these crimes are often marginalized and vulnerable groups, underscoring the urgency for us to stay informed and vigilant against these criminal activities.

Human Trafficking Problem:

Human trafficking is an ongoing and complex issue, evolving from forced labor to forced criminality, particularly in cases involving online criminal networks. A recent United Nations report estimates that hundreds of thousands of people worldwide fall victim to human trafficking, with over 120,000 victims in Myanmar and an additional 100,000 in Cambodia. Many of these victims are men from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, lured into online crime networks through deceptive advertisements promising easy work and high incomes.

Upon arrival, victims are often deceived, confined, and coerced to work in offices of online fraud networks in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Those who refuse to work are threatened and subjected to danger, while some face torture, and others are even sold to other criminal groups. Thailand plays a significant role in human trafficking, acting as both a source, transit, and destination country. The current situation, especially along the Thai borders with Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, poses severe challenges, with a notable presence of Chinese-run criminal gangs seeking refuge from Chinese authorities and operating within Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Efforts to combat this issue have been intensified, with joint operations involving officials from China, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. Numerous arrests have been made since September 2016, particularly in border towns of Myanmar, where a large number of victims, including Thais, Cambodians, Laotians, and Vietnamese, have been rescued. The issue remains critical in the Mekong River Basin, emphasizing the crucial role of border communities in collaborative efforts to mitigate or eliminate these problems.

Drug Trafficking Problem

Drug trafficking is a classic challenge that Thai society has faced for an extended period, with border areas serving as crucial gateways for smuggling. The Golden Triangle, located at the border of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, is a significant drug production hub. The impact of drug addiction on Thai society is profound, leading to a loss of a strong and vital workforce.

The border regions, particularly those adjacent to Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, are key transit points for drug smuggling. The infamous Golden Triangle, with its significant drug production, has long been a source of narcotics that negatively affects Thai society. Drug addiction not only deteriorates the quality of life but also poses a significant threat to the safety of the society. It is imperative that border communities actively participate in preventing the illicit entry of drugs into Thailand, safeguarding the well-being and safety of the Thai people.

In conclusion, both human trafficking and drug trade pose significant challenges for Thai society, particularly in border regions. Addressing these issues requires active participation from border communities, who play a vital role in reporting and preventing these crimes from infiltrating Thai territory. Collaborative efforts among neighboring countries and the international community are crucial to effectively combatting these transnational challenges.

Illegal Migration

Illegal Migration is another significant problem in Thai border areas and neighboring countries. This issue is primarily driven by economic challenges and the desire for a better life. Legal entry processes are often complex, expensive, and time-consuming, leading individuals seeking lawful employment to resort to illegal entry methods. This gap in the legal system creates opportunities for human trafficking, as people attempt to enter Thailand for work without proper documentation.

The economic challenges in neighboring countries, coupled with the complexities of legal immigration processes, contribute to the rise of illegal entry, leading to an influx of undocumented workers into Thailand. This, in turn, poses various problems, as those who enter illegally may face abandonment, unemployment, and may eventually be coerced into engaging in illegal activities, including human trafficking and forced sex work.

The issue of illegal entry presents an opportunity for collaborative solutions. Policymakers and relevant authorities can work together to address the root causes and improve the legal entry processes. Thailand itself faces a significant labor shortage, particularly in agriculture, services, and industries, where Thais are less inclined to work. Therefore, finding common ground between the demand for labor and the supply of workers can create win-win solutions for both employers and the workforce.