Thailand has been upgraded to Tier 2 ranking in the 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released this week by the US, its highest ranking in eight years.
Increased efforts to fight human trafficking recognized
From 2011 to 2013 the kingdom was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, in 2014 and 2015 was on the lowest Tier 3, and in 2016 and 2017 rose back to the Tier 2 Watch List.
The latest annual report from the US State Department said Thailand had demonstrated increasing efforts to fight human trafficking since the previous report. The Thai government had prosecuted and convicted more traffickers, and decreased prosecution time for trafficking cases through the use of specialized anti-trafficking law enforcement divisions.
It had also investigated more cases of suspected official complicity in trafficking crimes and convicted 12 complicit officials in 2017, 11 of whom were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants.
It had issued regulations to increase oversight of NGO-operated shelters and provide access to governmental financial support.
It had also established an anti-trafficking task force composed of law enforcement, social workers and NGOs to increase coordination of law enforcement and victim protection efforts, also created a victim specialist program, and increased training for labour inspectors on forced labour.
On key areas where the Thai government did not meet minimum standards, the report said officials had identified fewer victims of forced labour and investigated fewer forced labour cases compared to the previous report.
Official complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts, and there were anecdotal reports that officials had arrested, detained and deported some potential victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
Victims and activists may have been deterred from reporting, and some officials may have been hesitant to pursue investigations of exploitation due to risks of facing criminal defamation charges brought by unscrupulous employers.
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on the kingdom’s improved ranking: “Thailand remains deeply engaged in strengthening cooperation and partnership with all stakeholders in a whole-of-society approach, and will continue to work closely with concerned international organizations and various countries, including the United States, in our ongoing attempt to end trafficking in persons.”
A government spokesman quoted prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as saying: “We thank the US for seeing the Thai government’s determination to solve human trafficking. As Thailand will chair ASEAN next year, we will bring anti-human trafficking issues to be more tangible in the region.”