Human Rights: Forbes says TIP (Slave Labor) report another “Black Eye” for Thailand

Thailand just got “Slammed for Human Trafficking” in U.S. State Dept. Report, says Forbes. And Forbes says Thailand is bracing for the repercussion. On repercussion, the Thai junta is counting on Thailand not having to face sanctions. The junta spokesman, before the report came out, said the junta does not expect, if Thailand was downgraded, to have much of an impact on Thailand’s economy, but also said it may impact global consumers’ sentiment.

The following is from Forbes (source)

On Friday morning the U.S. State Department released its 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, an annual ranking of countries based on their efforts to combat modern-day slavery such as sex trafficking and forced labor.

And as many in Thailand had feared, the Land of Smiles was downgraded to the bottom rung: Tier 3, the ranking for countries that do not meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and are not making significant efforts to do so.

The ranking not only puts Thailand in the unsavory company of states such as North Korea, Iran and Syria, it also opens the possibility for U.S. economic sanctions and the blocking of aid from institutions such as the World Bank and IMF.

Thailand’s demotion, hot on the heels of a recent Guardian report of brutal forced labor on Thai commercial fishing boats, comes as no great surprise. The country has been on the State Department’s Tier 2 watch list for four years now, and faced an automatic downgrade this year if it wasn’t judged to be doing enough to clean up its act. The TIP report found that “tens of thousands of victims, by conservative estimates” have been forced, coerced or tricked into labor or the sex trade in Thailand. It also cited media reports that have implicated Thai civilian and military officials in trafficking, particularly of Rohingya asylum-seekers from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

In a statement released by the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Vijavat Isarabhakdi said: “We are obviously disappointed and respectfully disagree with the State Department’s decision. In 2013, Thailand made significant advances in prevention and suppression of human trafficking along the same lines as the State Department’s standards.”

Sanctions are not automatic and may well never be applied, but the TIP report is another black eye for Thailand after a tumultuous several months of political protests and violence and last month’s military coup. The country’s economy contracted 2.1% in the first quarter of the year and the Bank of Thailand estimates it will grow just 1.5% in 2014; now, industries whose reputations have taken a hit in the report , such as seafood and shrimp, are bracing for further economic repercussions. Thailand’s military junta, which seized power on May 22,  has been trying to kick-start the economy with investment and infrastructure projects and disbursements that had been frozen by the political crisis.

Thailand was one of four countries downgraded on the TIP Report, with Venezuela, The Gambia, and Southeast Asian neighbor Malaysia also joining the list of shame. Malaysia was singled out for the abuses many of its migrant workers continue to suffer, such as restrictions on movement, wage fraud, passport confiscation, and imposition of debts by recruitment agents or employers. Overall, 23 countries received the report’s lowest ranking this year.

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