US upgrades Thailand to Tier 2 in human trafficking report, but…

Government Spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana

The US has promoted Thailand from the “Tier 2 Watch List” up to “Tier 2” in their annual Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report, as confidently predicted by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan back in May. However, Thailand still has a long way to go, according to the report.

The report praised Thailand’s “significant efforts” to eliminate human trafficking, which include increasing the number of trafficking investigations, finalising a national referral mechanism, investigating alleged complicit officials, opening a new trafficking victim identification centre, developing guidelines for labour officials to refer suspected victims of human trafficking to multidisciplinary teams and identifying more victims than the previous year.

The government’s numerous anti-trafficking awareness and prevention campaigns were also praised in the report.

However, Thailand “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking…”

“The number of trafficking prosecutions and convictions decreased compared with the previous reporting period. Despite reports that forced labor was prevalent among migrant workers in many industries in Thailand, inconsistent and ineffective interviewing practices during labor inspections left many labor trafficking victims unidentified, officials often lacked an understanding of indicators of labor trafficking, and Thai authorities have never reported identifying a victim of labor trafficking as a result of fishing vessel inspections conducted at ports.”

“There continued to be significant gaps in the government’s provision of services to victims, and some victims residing in government shelters lacked freedom of movement. Corruption and official complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts.”

If Thailand has any chance at moving up to Tier 1 in next year’s TIP, the government must prioritise the following tasks…

  • Increase trafficking prosecutions and convictions, particularly for labour trafficking
  • Train officials on and ensure effective implementation of new guidelines
  • Ensure multidisciplinary teams are composed of officials who are trained
  • Proactively investigate and prosecute officials allegedly complicit in facilitating trafficking and convict those found guilty with adequate sentences
  • Increase the ability of victims, especially adults, to move freely in and out of shelters and access technology, and reassess shelter placements to ensure victims are not required to remain in shelters longer than necessary
  • Ensure the use of trauma-informed procedures by government officials during interviews with potential victims
  • Increase awareness among officials of less understood trafficking indicators
  • Ensure complaints by labourers and migrants are investigated
  • Enforce regular payment of wages

One group of potential victims of forced labour – fishermen – were let down by the government this year, according to the report. Officials conducted at-sea inspections of 671 fishing vessels but did not identify a single violation. The report said that inspections did not include sufficient checks for labour violations and did not consistently have interpreters available for foreign crew members.

Overall, Thailand’s removal from the Tier 2 Watchlist means the country is heading in the right direction. Today, government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had acknowledged the report…

“The Prime Minister has formulated policies with great emphasis on solving the problem of anti-human trafficking, is taking the national agenda against human trafficking seriously, and wants to protect human dignity in accordance with human rights principles, which Thailand has always given importance to.”

“Thailand is ready to cooperate with various sectors both domestically and internationally to eliminate all forms of human trafficking and forced labor. The Prime Minister thanks everyone involved in working to resolve this issue. Everyone is helpful in solving the problem. We are determined to work continuously to eliminate this problem completely from Thailand.”

SOURCE: U.S. Department of State | Royal Thai Government

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.