By SUPALAK GANJANAKHUNDEE
WHILE Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is quite confident increased measures introduced by his government over the past month to combat human trafficking could convince the United State to upgrade Thailand in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report
The US State Department is due to release its latest TIP report by the third week of this month. The report last year placed Thailand in the lowest category, Tier 3.
The military government has since updated Washington occasionally on measures it has introduced in a bid to solve the problem.
A progress report was submitted to the US in March while evaluations, a situation assessment and congressional testimonies on the issue took place in April.
The testimony of key people familiar with the issue suggested Thailand should stay in Tier 3 this year due to what was seen as insufficient moves implemented to combat and prevent modern-day slavery.
The recent discovery of forced labour on Thai fishing trawlers in Indonesia and discovery of mass graves in migrant camps along the Thai-Malaysia border has not helped the Kingdom’s cause in its attempt to get an upgrade.
Observers advised the government to turn the crisis into an opportunity to change Thailand from a regional hub for human trafficking into a land of “zero tolerance” when it comes to the trading in human life.
As a result, the government launched a crackdown on trafficking syndicates. Dozens of suspects including senior officials in the Army were arrested while many others are wanted under arrest warrants.
Thailand also joined other Asean countries including Malaysia and Indonesia in formulating measures to provide humanitarian assistance to boat people from Bangladesh and Myanmar. The government held a special meeting of senior officials from 17 countries and international organisations last month to seek solutions to tackle the problem in the short, medium and long term.
The international community praised the efforts while the charge d'affaires of the US Embassy in Bangkok, W Patrick Murphy, expressed his satisfaction with the actions of Thailand via Twitter.
But senior officials at the Foreign Ministry remain concerned that these efforts might not be taken into consideration by the US as they may have come too late, as the evaluation period had passed.
Meanwhile, many social workers who have been in the field for a long time say the government’s actions including the crackdown may have got the US’ attention but failed to solve the complicated problem at its roots.
The State Department, in its TIP Report, places countries on one of three tiers based on government efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” found in Section 108 of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.
“While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem,” according to a statement by the US Department.