In this year’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), compiled and recently published by the US State Department, Thailand has been upgraded to Tier 2, from Tier 2 “watch list” status, said Government Spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana today (Wednesday).
The TIP report also honours Thai labour activist, Apinya Tajit, as one of this year’s six TIP Report Heroes, in recognition of her heartfelt and unwavering persistence in advocating for workers exploited by forced labour, especially in the fishing industry, assisting victims with their reintegration into society and sharing her expertise with government officials and anti-trafficking authorities.
Apinya was at the release ceremony for this year’s TIP report, held at the US State Department yesterday, with four other heroes, but without Kahtehrynah Chehrehpahkha from Ukraine, who were honoured by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The TIP report said that the Thai government had showed more attempts to combat human trafficking, compared to a year before when Thailand was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thailand identified more victims than in the previous year and initiated investigations into 17 allegedly complicit officials in 2021, sentencing two to prison.
While the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas, according to the report, prime minister Prayut is said to be very pleased with the upgrade.
Thailand was in Tier 2 Watch for two years. If a country is not removed from the list after two years, its status will be automatically downgraded to Tier 3. This would have meant that the country could have been denied support from US government.
According to the report, 21 countries including Thailand, out of 188 assessed, were upgraded a tier because their governments made significantly increased efforts to combat trafficking at home and for their citizens abroad. 18 countries were downgraded a tier.
Thanakorn said that the Thai government attaches the highest priority to addressing the problem of human trafficking, by making it a national agenda, adding that the government will continue to work hard to suppress human trafficking and to protect the rights and dignity of workers.
He also said the government will cooperate with governmental and non-governmental organisations in the country and abroad to crack down on human trafficking and all forms of forced labour.
Blinken said that all the TIP Report heroes have made a huge difference in the lives of people around the world.
Claiming that there are nearly 25 million victims of trafficking, he stressed that the US is committed to fighting it, because trafficking destabilises societies, undermines economies, harms workers, enriches those who exploit them, undercuts legitimate business and, most fundamentally, “because it is so profoundly wrong.”
Citing the TIP report, he said corruption continues to be a top tool of traffickers which enables traffickers to continue to act with impunity.
He said that even the higher demand for clean energy can have unintended consequences, citing the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to much of the world’s cobalt, a critical component for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.
He said numerous children have been forced, through coercion or fraud, into the mines to dig out the cobalt.