Nation retains 'Tier 2' status on trafficking
US tells govt to step up law enforcement
Although Thailand remains on Tier 2 of the US Department of State's Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report for a second year running, anti-human trafficking activists have raised questioned about the seriousness of the country's new coalition government in solving the problem.
Labour Protection Network (LPN) manager Patima Tungpuchayakul said that the ranking reflects the Thai's government dedication in solving the issue. However, she warned that a lack of dedication to the task at hand will negatively impact the ranking in the future.
"Although Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha remains as premier, the cabinet ministers are from various parties, so I am concerned about the continuity of the policies. It's possible that some good measures might be neglected as parties have different priorities [on the issue]," she said.
The US released the 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report on Thursday night, which saw Thailand ranked as Tier 2 for the second year in a row, after it rose from Tier 3 -- the lowest rank -- in 2014-2015 and from Tier 2 Watchlist in 2016-2017.
A Tier 2 ranking means the government has made significant strides in raising the country's compliance to a higher level of standards. However, the US urged Thailand to do more to improve its standards in several other key areas such as law enforcement.
Ms Patima said that Thai authorities have stopped smuggling rings on multiple occasions from bringing trafficked people into the kingdom. In fact, the government has acted quickly to send these individuals back, however, more should be done to find the culprits at the root of such operations.
Another problem is a lack of translators available in human trafficking cases who can translate from the victims' languages. This prevents investigators from understanding them and winning their trust, she said.
Meanwhile, Adisorn Kerdmongkol, who represents a network of non-governmental organisations working with migrant workers said that fair payment for migrants is the next matter the Thai government should look into.
"Although the import [of migrant workers] is legal, if the procedures and conditions are complicated, it will open loopholes for the abusive collection of money from labourers or in some cases lead to new ways of human trafficking," he said.
Deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said yesterday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is satisfied that the United States has kept Thailand at a Tier 2 ranking and vowed to work harder to end human trafficking in the country.
"By keeping Thailand on Tier 2, the US is aware of Thailand's determination and efforts to suppress all forms of human trafficking," he said and added that the new government would continue to work to improve the situation at the local level.
The government realises that the problem still exists in some areas of the country and that he was ready to listen to recommendations from the US and concerned parties in order eliminate human trafficking, the deputy government spokesman said.
The report praised the country for saving more victims, sentencing convicted traffickers and complicit officials to significant prison terms, developing several manuals in partnership with civil society to standardise anti-trafficking training and policies and the appointment of inspectors to identify trafficking victims.
However, the report also said that the government did not meet the minimum standards in several areas.
In terms of the justice system, it cited the investigation, prosecution and conviction of fewer traffickers.
The report also claims that the government restricted movement and communication of victims in shelters.
Complicity continues to impede anti-trafficking efforts and officials have not consistently identified cases of trafficking, it added.
To address these shortcomings, the report urged the country to proactively prosecute and traffickers and identify labour-trafficking victims.
It should also proactively investigate and prosecute officials who are allegedly complicit in facilitating trafficking and convict and punish those found guilty in these cases with adequate sentences.