By WASAMON AUDJARINT
THAILAND IS hoping its efforts to combat human trafficking will elevate it from last year’s “Tier 2 Watch list” status designated by the US State Department.
“We’re certainly hopeful that we will be viewed more positively,” said Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai yesterday at a briefing unveiling Thailand’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) 2016 report. “We also think that human trafficking is a global issue and should be focused on by all countries regardless of administration.”
Copies of the report were submitted to the US State Department on Tuesday as a part of its annual human trafficking review and ratings of countries worldwide. The department is expected to respond in June.
High-ranking officials from the Labour Ministry, Social Development and Human Security Ministry and police attended the press briefing announcing the report yesterday at the Foreign Ministry.
The Kingdom was saddled with the lowest Tier 3 rating in 2015, and was raised to “Tier 2 Watch list” last year following improved efforts by the government in tackling slavery practices in the fishery industry. The industry would remain a focus of authorities, the report said, together with forced prostitution and child pornography.
The government emphasised five strategic areas in the report: policy, prosecution, protection, prevention and partnership.
With a “zero tolerance” commitment against human trafficking, the report said the government had increased its overall anti-human trafficking budget by 23.88 per cent and intensified its legal safeguards by setting up the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Increasing Effectiveness of Human Trafficking Prosecution to coordinate law enforcement.
Regarding prosecutions, the report said police had uncovered and investigated 333 cases and the Office of the Attorney-General had indicted 301 cases, an increase of 5 per cent and 19.92 per cent respectively from 2015.
The number of convictions rose to 268 from 205 in 2015. Assets seized from traffickers also increased by 307 per cent to US$22 million (Bt77.5 million) compared with the year before.
Since 2013, criminal and disciplinary actions have been taken against 45 governmental officials, including 10 police officers in 2016, the report said.
The report said 196 victims of human trafficking had been offered jobs, including at shelters, an increase of 350.1 per cent from 47 victims in 2015. Victims and witnesses were also allowed to stay in Thailand for up to two years and there were improvements in protection services and rehabilitation plans aimed at empowering and developing victims’ skills.
A new law regulating migrant labour recruitment agencies while reducing costs and times for migrant workers to enter Thailand was also enforced last year, the report said, as well as a new requirement for compulsory identification documents in the fishery sector.
Authorities have also improved cooperation with the Asean Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; the Australia-Asia Programme; and US agencies such as Homeland Security Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.