By WASAMON AUDJARINT
THE UPGRADE of Thailand’s status in the United States’ Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report will pave the way for “smooth relations” between Bangkok and Washington, said Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.
But the US maintained that the decision had no connection with its stance over political developments in Thailand and military government’s practices on human right.
“This [the report] is such a mutual recognition that I think will certainly be very much enhanced,” Don told a press briefing yesterday.
“This is also a good milestone that started with decent, clear, and transparent points.”
The US State Department announced Thursday that Thailand was classified on the Tier 2 human-trafficking watch list, a promotion from the lowest level, Tier 3, which Thailand was stuck on for two years.
“We have also cooperated closely with the US Embassy to see what we can carry on next,” Don said.
The US Ambassador Glyn T Davies said that the elevation of Thailand did not have any political implications when asked whether it could mean closer ties between the US and the junta government.
The report relates mostly to developments against human trafficking in Thailand, Davies explained during the embassy’s early celebration of US Independence Day on Thursday night.
A statement from the embassy said: “We will continue to urge the Thai government to make tangible progress in line with recommendations outlined in the 2016 TIP Report. The US government is committed to working closely with the government and the people of Thailand to address this significant challenge.”
Thai-US relations have gained diplomatic sores, notably after the US’s strong rebukes of Thailand’s human rights record.
Don called Davies to the ministry for a “scheduled meeting” a day after the Kingdom’s human rights practices were criticised in the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in May.
Following the meeting and speaking in front of Don, Davies told the media that the junta’s intimidation of political activists and their families had raised extreme concerns about Thailand’s commitment to freedom of expression.
At yesterday’s press briefing on the TIP report, Don reiterated that it had been the government’s national agenda since April last year to tackle human trafficking as it had “zero tolerance” towards the practice of modern slavery in Thailand.
As a result, he said measures to tackle the issue had been pushed in agencies such as the Office of the Attorney General, criminal courts, the Labour Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Department of Special Investigation as well as civil societies and non-governmental organisations.
The foreign minister hopes that the TIP elevation will enhance Thailand’s struggling illegal fishery situation so that the fisheries industry complies with the standards of the European Union, which will assign technical officers to consult with Thai authorities on the matter this month.
Myanmar, a major source of human trafficking, obtained Tier-3 status this year but Don believes that with help from Asean instruments this should not negatively affect Thailand.
The Washington-based International Labour Rights Forum and the Southeast Asia-based Fortify Rights consider the United States’ decision to upgrade Thailand in the Trafficking in Persons Report as premature.
The International Labour Rights Forum said in a statement that a letter signed by human rights-oriented organisations was sent to US Secretary of State John Kerry, saying the move would “undermine international efforts to significantly and permanently improve working conditions among migrant workers in Thailand”.
“We are very disappointed at this decision, which does not, in our view, accurately assess the situation on the ground,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labour Rights Forum, one of the organisations that signed the letter.