Thailand dodges US sanctions over human trafficking


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

Relief as US opts against sanctions
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Thailand yesterday welcomed US President Barack Obama’s decision not to impose sanctions against the Kingdom over its failure to combat human trafficking, assuring it would continue to work hard to improve its performance in this area.

Washington downgraded Thailand’s status in its “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) report in June.

Later, the ruling junta allocated energy and personnel to improve the way it handled the issue, as well as to update the US government on latest developments.

The decision on sanctions has delighted the country, given that the May 22 coup in May cooled relations with the US. Thailand’s TIP downgrade to the lowest level – Tier III – was partly a repercussion of the soured ties, as was the cessation of some military cooperation.

The prospect of sanctions had, however, been feared by the country’s military leaders.

Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said the decision would be good for Thai exports to the US. The government will continue to work closely with concerned agencies and private enterprises to solve the problem of human trafficking and increase protection for labourers, she said.

The Foreign Ministry praised Obama’s decision, which it said reflected that Washington had considered Thailand’s efforts to improve the human trafficking situation in recent months.

“The decision also reflects the fact that the US gives importance to its long relationship with Thailand,” said deputy spokesman Russ Jalichandra. “Thailand has a clear will to solve the problem and will cooperate with all concerned parties in this matter.”

Commerce Minister Chatchai Sarikalya has instructed Thai trade officials overseas to draw up export strategies and stress that moves were being made to improve the country’s bad reputation on human trafficking, Nuntawan added.

Poj Aramwattananon, president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association, said the US decision on sanctions was very good news for Thai businesses. As Thailand is still in Tier III, all involved agencies will continue to improve labour protection, he stressed, adding that he expected the current government would also stringently endorse and enforce many laws related to human-rights protection and show that Thailand was seriously concerned about labour issues.

Poj expects the Kingdom’s TIP status to be upgraded next year.

Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said orders for Thai products from the US could now be expected to run more smoothly than in recent months.

“The order level from the US should get back to normal and it should continue to improve from now on, as President Obama’s announcement has proved to be more positive for the country’s image,” he said.

Supant said the public sector had been spearheading a campaign ever since the downgrade in June, and that the private sector – including the FTI – had played a supporting role by contacting foreign embassies and foreign chambers and arranging seminars to reassure foreign buyers that the country was doing everything it could to combat human trafficking.

Vallop Vitanakorn, vice chairman of the FTI, said the US president’s decision was not unexpected, because a downgrade did not normally include a trade sanction.

He said that while the export of goods had not been affected by the downgrade in the past three months, the country’s image had been affected.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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