PM vows to continue anti-trafficking efforts after U.S. upgrade
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha pledged that there would be no easing up or relaxation of Thailand’s efforts to eliminate human trafficking following the release last week of the United States Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report that recognized the Kingdom’s progress and raised its ranking.
“We have a duty to humanity. Trafficking victims are human beings. Whatever status we have been given, we have to do the job. Human trafficking must stop. If I can’t complete the mission, the next government must carry on,” the Prime Minister told reporters.
The report promoted Thailand from Tier 3, a category for worst offending nations whose governments the U.S. deems are not attempting to meet minimum standards for eliminating trafficking, to the Tier 2 Watch List, which is for governments making serious efforts to meet those standards. Thailand was demoted to Tier 3 in 2014, shortly after the current government came to power. But the assessment period that resulted in the demotion took place during the previous government’s time in office.
The demotion served as a wake-up call to then new Prime Minister Prayut who immediately adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards human trafficking as a core policy of his administration. Since then, a broad program of changes and progress has been made as far as laws and regulations, arrests and prosecutions, protections and prevention. One of the most notable achievements was the arrest and prosecution of over 100 members of a transnational human trafficking syndicate that involved army and police officers, local politicians and career criminals.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that the problem is far from over and that trafficking and abuses are still taking place. He vowed that more would be done to solve the problem.
Although the State Department recognized the significant efforts of the Thai government, it also noted that more advances are essential. “We encourage Thailand to make further, sustained progress in fighting trafficking and enforcing Thai anti-trafficking laws,” the State Department said on its website.
Reaction among advocacy and human rights groups was mixed. Some denounced the upgrade, arguing that the problem is still serious and that raising Thailand’s status would relieve pressure on Thai authorities to make further progress. The State Department criteria, however, are not based solely on the severity of the problem, but on whether or not a government is making a sincere effort to meet minimum standards in fighting trafficking during the period of assessment. The U.S. report found that the government is making a serious effort even though all of the minimum standards have yet to be achieved.
Other advocacy and rights groups, however, concurred with the U.S. assessment, while also calling for greater and more sustained progress.
Wanna Bootsane, of the Rak Thai Foundation,which monitors migrant worker issues, told The Nation newspaper that the government’s efforts over the past year have been impressive and that it has been sincere in its attempts to battle human trafficking. However, she added that it was a complicated issue involving several sectors of society.
Sompong Srakaew, director of the Labor Rights Promotion Network, also told The Nation that the government has done a satisfactory job over the past year in dealing with human-trafficking problems.
Both said, however, that more needs to be done and that they were also concerned that the government might relax its efforts because of the upgrade.
Although Prime Minister Prayut has resolved to sustain the government’s efforts, his challenge now is to ensure that every level of Thailand’s bureaucracy and justice system remains fully on board and continues to improve their response. The same holds true for the private sector, which also has a responsibility to engage in ethical practices while doing business.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org