BANGKOK — Thailand is asking the United States to reconsider its placing of the kingdom in the bottom tier in the annual State Department report on human trafficking, which was released Friday.
Thailand is expressing regret, disappointment and disagreement with the decision by the U.S. State Department to rank it among the countries doing the least to combat trafficking in persons.
American diplomats characterize the Thai government’s approach as being full of promises but short on results.
Thailand, Malaysia, The Gambia and Venezuela were demoted to Tier 3, the lowest category, joining such states as Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe.
The permanent secretary of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, says Thailand does not deserve to be ranked in the bottom tier, which is for nations deemed not in compliance with the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking.
“I do know that Thailand is doing better, much better, than the other countries in that category,” said Sihasak. “I’m sure you can vouch for that, also. Does that reflect where Thailand stands? Does that provide the kind of support, encouragement for us to continue doing what we’ve been doing? So I ask United States whether Thailand should be in that category.”
The permanent secretary says the government, which was taken over by the military in a coup a month ago, will ask Washington to reconsider its assessment of Thailand and re-evaluate the “tangible progress” made in the past year.
Sihasak takes issue with the idea behind the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, which ranks 188 countries into three tiers.
“We don’t believe that it is right for one country to use its own yardstick to evaluate what another country is doing or the performance of another country in terms of dealing with this problem,” said Sihasak.
The State Department Friday contended the Thai government had “demonstrated few efforts to address these trafficking crimes.”
Being placed on the Tier 3 blacklist can prompt sanctions and make multinational companies hesitant to invest in a country accused of not sufficiently fighting against trafficked labor.
Thailand has faced considerable scrutiny, accused of being what some activists term a hub of human slavery.
International media investigations over the past year have alleged barbaric conditions for workers sold to Thailand’s shrimp fishing fleets.
Pulitzer Prize winning articles by the Reuters news agency accused Thailand’s navy of being involved in trafficking Rohingya Muslims escaping from persecution in neighboring Myanmar (also known as Burma).
Journalists and researchers in Thailand who expose such abuses, which also extend to the agriculture sector, for years have faced threats of violence, lawsuits and criminal charges.
Thailand’s Foreign Ministry says despite disappointment with the designation, the country stands “ready to do more” and will continue with concerted efforts to rid the country of human trafficking, calling it “our national priority.”