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Rights groups call for US sanctions against Thailand over trafficking

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Rights groups call for US sanctions against Thailand over trafficking | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Groups say Thailand should face U.S. sanctions over trafficking
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Thailand should be liable to potential U.S. sanctions for failing to crack down on trafficking in migrant workers, a group of human rights and labour organisations said on Friday.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 19 organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the American Federation of Labor, said Thailand “does not meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, nor is it taking real steps to meet those standards.”

As such, Thailand, although an important U.S. ally, should be downgraded to Tier III of the State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, the letter said.

Such a downgrade would make Thailand liable to sanctions, which could include the withholding or withdrawal of U.S. non-humanitarian and non-trade-related assistance.

It would also mean that Thailand could face U.S. opposition to assistance from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The letter to Kerry noted that Thailand had been placed on the Tier II watch list in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, which cited “pervasive trafficking-related corruption and weak interagency coordination” that “continued to impede progress in combating trafficking.”

“Nothing about this system has changed significantly in the course of the last year, and the government continues to be at best complacent, at worst complicit, in the trafficking of migrant workers from neighbouring countries to provide inexpensive labour for export industries,” the letter said.

It cited a December 2013 Reuters report that showed Thai government officials sold hundreds of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to human traffickers.

“The United States should make very clear its concern about the systematic abuse of migrant workers in Thailand, who produce products destined for the U.S. market,” the letter said.

“Far from making credible efforts to fight trafficking, the Thai government has perpetuated policies that foster trafficking of migrant workers within its borders and deny them access to protection and redress,” it said.

Last month, U.S. lawmakers called on the Obama administration to punish countries that do too little to fight human trafficking, including Thailand and Malaysia, and said Myanmar should not receive a waiver to avoid possible sanctions over its record.

Countries on Tier 2 for two years are downgraded to Tier 3 unless they receive presidential waivers, available for two additional years.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Property

“No stimulus for property sector” – Thai finance minister

The Thaiger & The Nation

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“No stimulus for property sector” – Thai finance minister | The Thaiger

The Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana told a seminar in Bangkok yesterday that the government’s stimulus packages were for the ‘grass roots economy’ and the property sector can cope on its own, without any government assistance.

He was speaking at a property seminar hosted by the Krungthep Turakit newspaper yesterday. He said that that the real estate sector could readily adjust to the Bank of Thailand’s loan-to-value (LTV) criteria on mortgage loans that took effect last April.

“The government’s latest economic stimulus packages are aimed at helping revive the grassroots economy, and that should in turn benefit to the property sector.”

The 316 billion baht stimulus package approved by the Cabinet on August 20 focuses on cash handouts for low-income earners and domestic travellers and extends soft loans to drought-afflicted farmers.

The upbeat finance minister also said that, once the US-China trade war is sorted out, the Thai economy will expand at a faster rate.

“The Thai economy continues to expand.”

“Regardless of what happens with the US-China trade talks, GDP growth will reach 3%, as forecast by the National Economic and Social Development Council.”

SOURCE: The Nation

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Environment

Thai government to consider bringing forward plastics ban

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Thai government to consider bringing forward plastics ban | The Thaiger

That’s a ban on of single-use plastic bags, styrofoam (polystyrene) boxes, plastic straws and single-use plastic cups

In a surprise announcement, the Thai Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment says they’re considering bringing forward, by 1-2 years, a complete ban on the use of the key plastic polluters.

Varawut Silpa-archa, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister, says the department’s proposal, approved by Cabinet in April this year, to phase out the four types of plastic products by the year 2022, was too slow and should be brought forward.

Mr. Parkpoom Witharntirawat, a leader of an environment network, says that plastic waste is now having a widespread and profound impact on the environment and the situation will get worse if Thailand waits until 2022 to introduce the ban.

“We should move faster toward a plastic free society in Thailand. Every modern shop, shopping mall or other activity must stop using and distributing so much plastic.”

Minister Varawut says that the government is cooperating with the private sector to try to reduce the amount of trash, including plastic waste, being washed into seas around Thailand by installing netting in the estuaries of several rivers to trap the trash.

“This does nothing to address the root of the problem, but it’s a short-term measure which can help mitigate the problem of plastic waste getting into the oceans.”

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Thailand

Arrival projections for Thai tourism downgraded for 2019

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Arrival projections for Thai tourism downgraded for 2019 | The Thaiger

Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has downgraded the forecast for foreign arrivals this year to a range of 39-39.8 million. This is down from the upbeat projections at the start of the year that 40.2 million tourists would arrive in the Land of Smiles.

Thai tourism for the first half of 2019 grew only 1.4%, less than expected, prompting the new Minister to admit that the target of over 40 million would not be met.

Although some netizens have characterised the slight reduction in tourist arrivals, especially in some of the traditional ‘hot spots’, and specifically in the months of April and May, to a ‘collapse’ or major reversal of fortune for Thai tourism, the numbers still show an upward trajectory for the year.

The Thailand Tourism Intelligence Centre says 23.1 million foreign tourists visited the Kingdom between January and the end of August this year, up nearly 2% compared to the same period last year. The big mover is Indian tourists, up 24% year on year.

The minister, whose proposal to provide incentive to Chinese and Indian tourists with visa-free entry, says he will continue to chat about about the “security issues” raised with related state agencies.

His proposal, rebuffed last week by foreign minister Don Pramudwinai and deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, was rejected at last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. But the Cabinet did extend the current 2,000 baht visa-on-arrival fee waiver to the end of April next year.

Apart from India and China, the following countries are also on the list of visa-on-arrival fee waivers – Bulgaria, Bhutan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu.

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