THAILAND is holding its breath as it waits to hear if the United States will downgrade or praise the nation for its human-trafficking record.
Officials at the foreign ministry are confident that Thailand would maintain its status quo in the Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report to be released late this week.
Thailand has been listed on a Tier 2 Watch List of the TIP report for the past four years, meaning it risks a downgrade for its human-trafficking practices, notably involving the Rohingya boat people in the year gone by.
The US had earlier questioned the involvement of Thai officials in the trafficking of persons.
“We still don’t know whether the US will upgrade or downgrade us,” said the Foreign Ministry’s director-general of American and South Pacific Affairs, Songsak Saicheua.
“We are prepared for both scenarios; whatever tier they put us in, we will still continue with our future work and key action plans.
“We will also plan ahead to make more efforts,” he said at a press briefing on Monday.
The downgrade would likely trigger sanctions against Thailand, which could include the withholding or withdrawal of US non-humanitarian and non-trade-related assistance.
Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow met yesterday with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney to discuss the matter, insisting that Thailand had made progress on law enforcement in handling the human trafficking. Of 400 cases involved, more than 200 had been prosecuted, Sihasak said.
Thailand has engaged with US officials and concerned agencies, including the private sector, to update them on the human trafficking prevention in the country.
Thailand submitted 12 reports last year, an interim assessment in November and the completed assessment in March, illustrating what has been accomplished in the past five years and what they aimed to do as ‘future work’, Songsak said.
The ministry had met with its US counterpart, the Ministry of Labor, as well as Senators John McCain and Benjamin Cardin to discuss the issues, he said.
“Christopher Smith, chairman of the Global Human Rights subcommittee of the US House of Representatives seemed very satisfied with our explanation in all areas,” Songsak said.
“We explained there were concrete measures and legal implementations taking place,” he said.
Thailand has pursued a national strategy on the “5P” approaches to deal with trafficking issues.
They are: Prosecution and Law Enforcement, Protection and Recovery, Prevention, Policy and Mechanism to drive the policy,and Partnership, according to a press statement.
Songsak added that all sectors – both public and private – together with NGOs were confident about Thailand’s improvement in all five areas. Stricter juridical measures and punishment have been enforced.
“We are confident because there has been increased integration in all areas. Thailand also remains in contact with the United States on a weekly basis.
“In terms of policies, videoconferences have been consistently conducted.” Songsak said.