The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for 2021, issued last Thursday (July 1), demotes Thailand from Tier 2 to the Tier 2 Watchlist for the first time in four years.
The report said less effort had been demonstrated in combatting the problem, with forced migrant labour among Washington’s main concerns.
“The government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity,” the report said.
“Smugglers, brokers, employers, and others exploit Thai and migrant workers in labour trafficking in commercial fishing and related industries, the poultry industry, manufacturing, agriculture, domestic work, and street begging,” the report said.
The downgrade came as a shock to the government, which last year started lobbying to be upgraded to Tier 1. The Foreign Ministry said it was disappointed, saying the report “does not reflect fairly the significant efforts and concrete progress Thailand has made in combatting human trafficking”.
“The TIP report, after all, unilaterally makes an evaluation from the US’s very own view and by no means represents any international standard,” it said in a statement.
The Thai government attaches great importance to combatting human trafficking, the ministry said.
“All measures taken by Thailand are meant for the betterment of the Thai society, raising its standards in protecting and preventing Thai citizens and foreign nationals in Thailand, including migrant workers, from falling victims to human trafficking,” it added.
In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand’s achievements in key areas included an increase in prosecution efficacy, the ministry countered. More than 90% of submitted cases were brought to court within one year while more than 67% of offenders were handed harsh sentences that included jail terms of five years or more, the statement said.
Complicit officials were also punished and online human trafficking, a rising form of trafficking during the pandemic, was cracked down upon, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Outlining other efforts, the ministry said Thailand has focused on protection, adding that victim-centred and trauma-informed care approaches continue to be undertaken to protect victims of human trafficking in partnership with civil society organisations.
Migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar were granted an extended period of stay in Thailand until March 31, 2022 as a part of COVID-19 pandemic measures. Some 240,572 migrant workers received protection and welfare, thus minimising the risks of them falling prey to human traffickers, the ministry said.