Washington, DC: The U.S. Department of State maintained Thailand’s Tier 3 ranking, the lowest category, in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which was released this morning. The ranking accurately reflects Thailand’s lagging efforts to combat human trafficking and will incentivize the Thai government to make greater strides in the coming year, according to a global coalition of 25 human rights, environmental and labor groups, who sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today.
“The Thai government seems to be realizing it must address its significant labor trafficking problem or face economic consequences,” said Abby McGill, campaigns director for the International Labor Rights Forum. “Unfortunately, the changes it has made so far are largely cosmetic. We hope this decision will underscore the urgent need to reform immigration and labor laws so they uphold the human rights of migrant workers, one of the populations in Thailand most vulnerable to human trafficking.”
There are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand, many of whom labor in the most dangerous jobs in Thailand’s booming export economy. Several high-profile global media exposés last year brought significant international attention to the problem of human trafficking among migrant workers in Thailand’s fishing industry in particular. The European Union issued Thailand a “yellow card” for its failure to adequately monitor its fishing industry in April, which gave the Thai government six months to improve oversight, or face sanctions.
The letter also condemned Thailand’s use of criminal defamation to prosecute journalists and human rights defenders who uncover cases of human trafficking, claiming such prosecutions inhibit the ability of victims to speak out and seek justice. This month, Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, and migrant rights defender Andy Hall, faced court proceedings in separate cases related to accusations of human trafficking, the former in the seafood sector and the latter at a pineapple canning facility.
“While there have recently been positive moves forward, Thailand has still not yet demonstrated enough political will, translated into effective implementation of actions, to change the systemic nature of its human trafficking,” said Sein Htay, president of the Migrant Workers Rights Network. “It’s important that government, industry and civil society all work together to push the Thai government toward greater enforcement against the drivers of human trafficking, and accountability for the people guilty of supporting this egregious form of exploitation.”