Thailand remains in Tier 3 in the latest US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report that is released today.
Thailand was downgraded to Tier 3 last year, partly because of labour abuses and trafficking in its seafood sector. Although the country has made efforts to change things, not enough has been done, states the report.
Thai officials where hoping they had done enough to be upgraded. But according to the US Department of State's report, the "prosecution of journalists exposing traffickers and advocates for exposing traffickers, and statements discouraging media reporting on trafficking crimes undermined some efforts to identify and assist victims and apprehend traffickers".
Most of the countries in Tier 3 are in Asia and Africa, including North Korea, Syria, Iran, Algeria, and Zimbabwe. Other than Thailand, none of other Asean nations is in the bottom list. This year, Malaysia's ranking is lifted from Tier 3 but remains in the Watch List, along with Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.
Here is the excerpt from the report:
"The Government of Thailand does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so. Thailand investigated and prosecuted some cases against corrupt officials involved in trafficking but trafficking-related corruption continued to impede progress in combating trafficking.
The government decreased the numbers of investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and victims identified in 2014. The government increased prevention efforts - including the establishment of a new prime minister-level anti-trafficking committee and passage of ministerial regulations that increased the minimum age of workers in agriculture and on fishing vessels and required mandatory employment contracts, a minimum wage, rest hours, and holidays. The government also passed amendments to its 2008 trafficking law to increase penalties for traffickers and protect whistleblowers. The government passed a new Fisheries Act to replace a 1946 law, which requires better registration and monitoring of vessels and inspection of workers’ documents and working conditions. Senior government officials repeatedly expressed their strong commitment to combating trafficking. However, the prosecution of journalists and advocates for exposing traffickers, and statements discouraging media reporting on trafficking crimes undermined some efforts to identify and assist victims and apprehend traffickers. In some provinces, the government made some efforts to screen Rohingya migrants for trafficking indicators and worked with NGOs to assist sex trafficking victims; however there is still a lack of available interpreters for trafficking victims. The government also did not proactively identify many trafficking victims among fishing workers, or irregular migrants."
The report also came with a long list of recommendations. Among them are:
- Prosecute officials allegedly complicit in trafficking, and convict and punish those found guilty; increase efforts to identify, prosecute and convict traffickers, including those who subject victims to sex trafficking, debt bondage, or forced labour in Thailand’s commercial and export oriented sectors;
- Increase understanding of labour trafficking and debt bondage indicators among labour inspectors and law enforcement
- Prioritise the rights and safety of potential victims; investigate and improve labour recruitment practices for migrant workers; process and approve all legal status applications at the national, district, and provincial level in a timely manner; continue to increase the availability of interpretation services across government agencies with responsibilities for protecting foreign migrants, refugees, and victims of trafficking
- Cease prosecuting criminal defamation cases against researchers or journalists who report on human trafficking.
According to the report, Thailand is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.
There are an estimated three to four million migrant workers in Thailand, most from Thailand’s neighbouring countries - Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia.