KESHA WEST, PRESENTER: The United States has released its annual Trafficked In Persons report with China, Thailand and Malaysia condemned for their lack of action to eliminate human trafficking and slavery.
In Thailand, NGOs say hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia are being systematically exploited both in factories and out at sea, and they argue the authorities are doing very little to stop it.
The Thai government has promised a plan to combat trafficking more effectively, but the country is a long way from getting rid of its reputation as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking.
These women come from different villages in Thailand but share a similar story of exploitation. Both women ended up in a Polish jail after their supposedly legitimate working visas turned out to be not so legitimate after all. Before they were taken into custody, the women were forced to work long hours for months on end without any pay, constantly moved from one farm in Poland to the next during the night.
CHANAKAN MCIMAN, LABOUR EXPLOITATION VICITM (TRANSLATED): In Poland we had to share a bathroom. And we also had to share the bedroom with other male workers, some of whom we didn't know. There were no separate bathrooms for males and females.
PAMOPIMATH WEECHAKJANSANG, LIVE OUR LIVES NGO (TRANSLATED): They were victims of labour exploitation. Forced to work from dawn to dusk without receiving a salary or any overtime payments for their work. Living conditions were poor, and not what were stated in their contracts.
KESHA WEST: The pair are among thousands of Thais who choose to leave their homes and families to seek better-paid work opportunities in neighbouring countries or in places like Europe and the Gulf States. Too often, though, the situations these migrant workers find themselves in once they arrive at their destinations is far removed from what they've been promised by their recruiters.
Pamopimath Weechakjansang runs a support group in Bangkok for trafficked and returnee women who have been victims of sexual and or labour exploitation.
PAMOPIMATH WEECHAKJANSANG (TRANSLATED): For those who've been exploited sexually, both physically and mentally, they are traumatised because they've been forced to do something against their will. For those who've been victims of labour exploitation they're now faced with the heavy debt they've incurred.
MAX TUNON, TRIANGLE PROJECT CO-ORDINATOR, ILO: There are abuses that we see at origin and destination. A number of recruitment agencies and brokers involved in the recruitment process are charging excessive fees to migrant workers for the opportunity to migrate. This often impacts on their situation in the destination country where they have to work for several months in order to pay back those recruitment fees.
KESHA WEST: Max Tunon works for the International Labour Organisation co-ordinating the triangle project that brings together regional players to try to reduce labour exploitation. He says one of the worst cases of exploitation are seen in the domestic service industry.
MAX TUNON: Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to rights abuses because they're working in an isolated situation. They are working outside the scope of labour inspectorates. Often the labour laws don't fully protect their rights. And often they're not organised into unions or associations where they can get support or information.
KESHA WEST: In May, a Malaysian couple was sentenced to 24 years in jail for starving their Cambodian maid to death. It's not unusual to hear about cases of abuse of foreign domestic workers in Malaysia. And in response, both Indonesia and Cambodia have suspended sending maids to the country for years at a time.
Indonesia only recently lifted a ban on its maids travelling to Saudi Arabia for work as well, following numerous cases of mistreatment and exploitation, and the 2011 beheading of an Indonesian woman convicted of killing her employer.
Every year the United States releases a Trafficked In Persons or TIP report which grades countries under a three tier system on their efforts to eliminate human trafficking and slavery.
Saudi Arabia is rated right at the bottom on tier three.
JOHN KERRY, US SECRETARY OF STATE, JUNE 19: We're going to keep engaging with governments on this issue, because modern-day slavery affects every country in the world, including the United States, and every government is responsible for dealing with it and no government is yet doing enough.
KESHA WEST: China, Malaysia and Thailand are some of the worst offenders according to the report. Jackie Pollock is the director of MAP Foundation an NGO that supports migrant workers in Thailand. She argues too often local authorities turn a blind eye to blatant exploitation and says hundreds of thousands of migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia are being exploited on a daily basis in Thailand.
JACKIE POLLOCK, DIRECTOR, MAP FOUNDATION: People are not being paid minimum wage, they're not working in safe conditions and this continually happens and it's the employers are not being prosecuted for it.
KESHA WEST: The ABC contacted the Thai government for an interview, but the new Labour Minister was unavailable for comment. The women are hoping Live Our Lives can help them get some compensation. Both women have come home with significant debts, debts they can't afford to pay back.
TRAFFICKED WOMAN: It will not be the same as before. At first I was very confused how to live my life after I came back. The debt amount is 250 to 300,000 Baht, how are we going to live and what about the children’s schooling. Luckily my family understand and give me good support.