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Thailand awaits US human trafficking report
Publication Date : 20-06-2014
Thailand anxiously awaits the release today of the 2014 "Trafficking in Persons" (TIP) Report by US Secretary of State John Kerry, with the threat of a downgrade and sanctions over its poor practices and inadequate efforts to eliminate human trafficking.
As required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the TIP Report assesses governmental efforts around the world to combat modern slavery, according to the US Department of State.
Thailand is currently on the Tier 2 Watch List, the second-lowest rank, and could fall further if the US sees no improvement in Thai efforts to eliminate human trafficking. Dropping to Tier 3 status could possibly result in sanctions to be imposed by the United States.
The country has avoided a downgrade to Tier 3 for four years and officials in the Foreign and Justice ministries are confident it will survive another year.
Justice Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Chanchao Chaiyanukij said Thailand's law enforcement on human trafficking had improved.
"We have reports on prosecution of human traffickers and we showed the US that we have put in a lot of effort to fight trafficking," he said. "I think we will escape from sanctions, and be upgraded."
About 627 cases related to human trafficking are currently under prosecution. The court has so far sentenced 225 traffickers and many of them were jailed for more than two years, according to statistics of the Department of Special Investigation.
The authorities have explained to the US the improvements in the manufacturing sector where Washington saw rampant child and forced labour cases, Chanchao said.
However, there were worries that a recent media report about the use of forced labour by Charoen Pokphand Foods in its production chain might be taken into consideration in the report.
The Thai treatment of Rohingya boat refugees poses another problem. Thai officials were accused of trading the refugees to traffickers and media reports on this matter were heavily discussed in the US Congress recently during the consideration of the draft TIP Report.
A status downgrade and sanctions would affect many sectors of the economy, notably the labour-intensive fishery and food industries.
Somsak Paneetatyasai, president of the Thai Shrimp Association, said Thai shrimp farmers and enterprises would be closely monitoring the report today. If Thailand were downgraded, exports could be affected, he said.
He said that if Thailand would be moved to Tier 3, the US would boycott Thai products, mainly fishery products. Some private companies are already planning a worst-case scenario by negotiating with trading partners to continue their businesses.
Poj Aramwattananont, president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association, said manufacturers were hoping that the US would not downgrade Thailand's status, as the country had put in significant efforts to get rid off illegal labour in many industries.
He urged the US to evaluate the labour situation without political prejudice. Poj added that if Thailand were downgraded, it would immediately affect the country's image among other countries, but for exports many factors could be considered in the long run.