BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand’s embassy released a statement on June 12 highlighting its country’s progress in fighting human trafficking in Thailand. The release titled, “Thailand’s Anti-Trafficking Progress Exceeds (United States) State Department Criteria for Upgrade” outlined the positive outcomes of a push from the U.S. to end Thailand’s human trafficking endemic.
According to the report, the number of trafficking investigations by Thai officials has doubled and the number of trafficking convictions rose four-fold. The number of Thai officials prosecuted or convicted has increased by six times the amount.
Thailand’s statement is a reaction to a TIP (trafficking in persons) report recently released by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, which included a comprehensive index of governmental anti-trafficking efforts. The report rated Thailand “Tier 3” for human trafficking — the lowest rank among countries evaluated by the U.S. State Department.
Malaysia and Venezuela join Thailand as all three have been pushed down into the “Tier 3” category as each country has been on the State Department’s human trafficking watch list for over four years, and all have failed to demonstrate significant improvement.
There are 23 other countries apart from the three new joiners who are ranked as “Tier 3” for human trafficking including North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, Libya and Cuba.
Countries in this category are in danger of losing U.S. foreign aid and face American opposition to their reception of aid from The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The report did more than simply rank Thailand in a low category; it also heavily criticized the country for corruption and a failure to protect victims. Additionally, it accused Thailand’s officials of failing to “investigate, prosecute, or convict ship-owners and captains for extracting forced labor form migrant workers.” The report emphasizes that the Thai navy was allegedly complicit in trafficking.
The Thai fishing sector, according to the State Department’s report, is one of the worst outlets for trafficking. Tens of thousands of migrants have been forced to work on fishing boats without contracts or stable wages, while thousands more have pushed through Thailand’s illegal sex trade.
Trafficking is an umbrella term that includes not only sex trafficking, but also forced or bonded labor and the unlawful recruitment of child labor. The State Department’s report explains that the majority of trafficking victims in Thailand come from neighboring countries and have been “forced, coerced or defrauded into labor or the sex trade.”
Prayuth Can-ocah, Thailand’s head of the National Council for Peace and Order, has warned employers to refrain from using unregistered workers and has pushed for stricter regulations on Thailand’s labor market.
However, it appears that Thailand’s efforts have not proven to be enough to convince the U.S. government of their improvement. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who monitors TIP, said Thursday that although the U.S. government has worked well with members of Thailand’s government, overall there is a general sense of complicity that the State Department cannot ignore.