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US downgrades Thailand to be among worst human trafficking hubs

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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US downgrades Thailand to be among worst human trafficking hubs | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Thailand downgraded to be among worst trafficking centres
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The US State Department yesterday downgraded Thailand to the lowest level in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report – a move that could trigger sanctions by the United States.

After years of warnings, the US dumped Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela at the bottom of a list of countries accused of failing to tackle modern-day slavery, AFP reported from Washington.

Thailand had been on Tier 2 watchlist for four years for poor law enforcement before it dropped to the lowest rung – Tier 3.

The three countries, plus Gambia, found themselves added to a nations such as Iran, North Korea and Syria, which have already been languishing on the lowest tier of the State Department’s annual report into human trafficking.

“We each have a responsibility to make this horrific and all-too-common crime a lot less common,” US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in the 2014 TIP report, denouncing what he called “the evil of human trafficking”.

Tens of thousands of the world’s trafficking victims end up in Thailand as migrants from neighbouring countries “who are forced, coerced, or defrauded into labour or exploited in the sex trade”, the report said. The TIP survey was carried out before the military coup.

“Anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remained insufficient compared with the size of the problem in Thailand, and corruption at all levels hampered the success of these efforts,” the report said.

Earlier yesterday, the Commerce Ministry set up a working panel on trade and labour to increase efficiency in solving labour and related trade problems. Srirat Rasrapana, permanent secretary at the ministry, said the panel was made up of representatives from government, plus the public and private sectors.

“All sectors are waiting for the US [anti-trafficking] report. Thailand will move forward to solve labour problems no matter what the report comes out with. The committee will be a deep trilateral collaboration and will show Thailand’s seriousness in resolving the [people smuggling] problem,” he said.

The new working committee will raise efficiency in countering illegal labour and clearly communicate its unity with the international community in doing this. The panel will also support the work of the National Council for Peace and Order’s committee on illegal migrant workers.

Srirat said the Thai government and private enterprises had continuously worked on labour problems.

The ministry had also assigned Thai trade representatives in Washington DC and Brussels, as well as trading partners to send clear letters of explanation to increase understanding about its efforts to solve labour problems.

The ministry also expects that the US will keep Thailand at the same level when it unveils its Worst Form of Child Labour report in September this year. Thailand is considering proposing to the US that five Thai products be withdrawn from exports because producers here allegedly use child or forced labour.

The five products are shrimp, garments, sugarcane, pornography, and fish. The proposal will proceed in August.

In a bid to alert Thai enterprises about issues of social concern, Srirat warned that the EU had serious environmental concerns over unregulated fishing, timber regulations, emissions trading and the greenhouse effect (global warming).

Junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said last night that concern about a possible downgrade led to the junta’s ongoing moves against illegal labour. He said this aimed at improving Thailand’s image on the international stage in regard to human rights and labour.

Prayuth made the remark during the live broadcast of his weekly TV programme “Returning Happiness to the People”.

He blamed criminal gangs preying on migrant workers for the rumour that the military was brutally cracking down on foreign labourers, particularly those from Cambodia. The rumour led to an exodus of over 100,000 Cambodian workers. He said those gangs could make more money smuggling the illegal labourers back to Thailand.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that the downgrade would hurt Thai exports, as there could be punitive measures by other countries. He spoke after meeting US Ambassador Kristie Kenney at the party’s headquarters. Abhisit called on the envoy to help create mutual understanding in order to ensure good mutual ties.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Property

“No stimulus for property sector” – Thai finance minister

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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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