US praises Thai trafficking fight

US praises Thai trafficking fight

Kari Johnstone, acting director of the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, meets Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Bangkok on Friday. (Foreign Ministry photo)
Kari Johnstone, acting director of the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, meets Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Bangkok on Friday. (Foreign Ministry photo)

A top anti-human trafficking official from the United States has acknowledged Thailand's serious efforts against trafficking and assured that Washington plans no sanctions against the country.

Kari Johnstone, acting director of the US State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, made the comment after meeting Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Bangkok on Friday.

For the sake of the Thai-US relationship, President Barack Obama has ruled out sanctions against Thailand and expressed the wish for both sides to address human trafficking together, she said.

"Clearly, it is a big problem in Thailand. It is a global problem and a challenge that we share in the United States of America as well", she said.

Mr Don said Thailand hoped for a better ranking in the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report next year as Washington had acknowledged the concrete measures the country was taking.

"The US is aware of the country's efforts since the government has declared the fight against human trafficking part of the national agenda. It shows our sincerity," Mr Don said.

High-ranking US officials would be meeting Thai authorities to discuss future solutions to combat the scourge, the minister said.

The discovery earlier this year of mass graves at camps where Rohingya and other migrants were held in southern Thailand spurred the government into action. Numerous people have been arrested and the activities of trafficking gangs have been curbed substantially.

However, the response by Thailand came after US investigators had completed the assessments on which the 2015 TIP report was based. Consequently, Thailand remained in the lowest Tier 3 category of countries with the worst human trafficking records. The country had been in Tier 2 for four consecutive years prior to 2014.

Tier 2 includes countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act but are making significant efforts to comply. Tier 3 countries are those that Washington believes do not fully comply and are not making significant efforts to do so.

Mr Don insisted that Thailand's latest ranking was not influenced by any political considerations related to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which Thailand has not joined.

Malaysia was upgraded to Tier 2 in the latest US TIP report, even though critics said it had not done anything concrete over the previous year to merit promotion, compared with Thailand.

Some US congressmen have demanded an investigation into the decision, saying the move appeared to be nothing more than a political reward for Malaysia for agreeing to join the TPP.


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