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June 23, 2014
Human Rights Groups Commend State Department for Action on Thailand
    by Robert Kropp

The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report downgrades the status of Thailand due to widespread human trafficking and official corruption in the country's lucrative seafood industry.

The US State Department recently published its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, in which it downgraded the human trafficking performance of Thailand to Tier 3, the worst ranking available.

It is not the first time the State Department has expressed serious concerns over forced labor and trafficking conditions in Thailand. "In the 2012 and 2013 TIP Reports, Thailand was granted consecutive waivers from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 on the basis of a written plan to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking," the 2014 report states. "A waiver is no longer available to Thailand, which is therefore deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3."

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and other human rights groups were quick to commend Secretary of State John Kerr for the department's action. In a letter to Kerry, the groups stated, "This decision is justified and an important step in international efforts to persuade the Royal Thai Government to begin making the difficult, but necessary, changes needed to bring themselves into compliance with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act."

The recent letter did not mark the first time ICCR and the other human rights groups engaged with Kerry on the issue of human trafficking in Thailand, with particular reference to widespread forced labor abuses in the country's lucrative seafood industry. In a substantive letter sent to Kerry last month, before the most recent TIP Report was published, the groups urged him to downgrade Thailand to Tier 3.

"The government continues to be at best complacent, at worst complicit, in the trafficking of migrant workers from neighboring countries to provide inexpensive labor for export industries," the earlier letter stated. Despite widespread reports of human trafficking in Thailand's seafood industry, "the Government refuses to heed ILO (International Labor Organization) recommendations for legal reform and enhanced enforcement practices that would reduce the financial incentive for trafficking to continue," the letter stated.

“The Government of Thailand does not meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, nor is it taking real steps to meet those standards,” the human rights groups argued.

According to the recent letter, "The Tier 3 ranking, as well as the research and recommendations contained in the report, will be an important informational tool for international and Thai institutions, companies and investors that continue to press Thai authorities to move beyond their current approach."


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