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‘Zero tolerance’ for human trafficking

Jun 30. 2016
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PM vows to be tough as Thailand upgraded to tier-2 watch list from tier 3.
PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday his government would continue exercising its “zero tolerance” policy on human trafficking to improve national standards in coping with slavery after the United States decided to upgrade Thailand from the lowest Tier-3 rating. 
“I will do my job. It’s our duty to take care of human beings and trafficked persons are also human beings,” Prayut told reporters when asked for a response to the US report on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) released yesterday. “Whatever status we have been given, we have to do the job. If I can’t complete the mission, the next government must carry on,” he said. 
The TIP 2016 report upgraded Thailand from Tier-3 to Tier-2 Watch List. “The government of Thailand does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the 408-page report said. It recognised a number of measures taken by the Thai authorities over the past year to tackle the human trafficking problems such as improving of many legal instruments for efficient prosecution.
The government amended its 2008 anti-trafficking laws and other laws related to forced labour in the fishing and seafood industry, which increased criminal and civil penalties on traffickers, allowed for the closure of businesses involved in forced labour, and provided legal protection for whistleblowers, it said. 
The report also made recommendations such as putting in more effort to prosecute officials complicit in trafficking, and convict and punish those found guilty with sufficiently stringent sentences as well as increase efforts to identify victims among vulnerable populations. 
On the protection measures, the Thai government maintained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims, although overall victim screening and protection efforts remained inadequate, according to the report.
Wanna Bootsane, a key member of the Rak Thai Foundation that monitors migrant worker issues on the east coast of the country, told The Nation that overall the government’s efforts over the past year have been impressive. The government has been sincere in its attempt to tackle human trafficking, she said. However, she added that it was a complicated issue involving several sectors of society. 
Despite her satisfaction with the government’s recent efforts, Wanna remains concerned that the problems of human trafficking and slave labour will persist in the long run. She also said that she was not sure whether the government would continue its efforts after achieving its goal of being upgraded to Tier 2. 
NGO worker Sompong Srakaew, the director of the Labour Rights Promotion Network, also said the government has done a satisfactory job over the past year in dealing with human-trafficking problems. 
However, the labour rights advocate said Tier-2 status was not exactly notable and that more effort is needed for Thailand to be ranked higher. 
Although praising the government for being sincere in trying to solve the long-standing issue, Sompong said there is a lot of work still left to be done. For instance, he said, the government could make it legal for migrants to work in Thailand to eradicate bribery, which is at the root of vicious trafficking issues. 
Thanavath Phonvichai, director at the Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, said the upgrade from Tier 3 to Tier 2 would have a positive impact on Thailand’s exports and boost consumer confidence.
He said about 20 per cent of trade from Thailand, including agricultural and fishery products, would benefit from the upgrade as consumers and international buyers will have more trust in Thailand’s labour standards. 
Nopporn Thepsithar, chairman of the Thai National Shippers Council, said foreign traders will have greater confidence in Thai products, especially seafood.

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