The upgrade, confirmed to Reuters by a U.S. official in Washington and a Bangkok-based official from an international organization with direct knowledge of the rankings, would mark a rare boost for U.S.-Thai relations. Ties between the countries have flat-lined since the Thai military seized power in a 2014 coup that Washington strongly condemned.
It also comes as President Barack Obama works to forge a united front among wavering Southeast Asian countries against China’s pursuit of its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Bangkok has protested publicly to Washington that it should be removed from the lowest ranking on the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which is due to be released on Thursday.
The report is expected to cite improvements in Thailand’s efforts to combat human trafficking, especially in its vital multibillion-dollar seafood industry, the U.S. official said.
The upgrade would put Thailand on a so-called “Tier 2 Watch List” and remove it from the rating for countries with the worst human-trafficking records, known as Tier 3.
The report organizes countries into tiers based on trafficking records: Tier 1 for nations that meet minimum U.S. standards; Tier 2 for those making significant efforts to meet those standards; Tier 2 "Watch List" for those that deserve special scrutiny; and Tier 3 for countries that are not making significant efforts.
Thailand was downgraded to the lowest ranking in June 2014 just weeks after the military seized power.//Reuters