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Smugglers hide workers in pickups like this one. In 2008, 54 Burmese suffocated inside a container truck, bound for Phuket from the Thai-Burma border

Downgraded Thailand Pledges Action on Trafficking, a 'Scourge on Mankind'

Saturday, June 21, 2014
PHUKET: Thailand has undertaken to quickly implement policies and an overall strategy in response to the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report 2014 that downgraded the country for the first time to Tier 3.

A spokesperson for the National Council for Peace and Order promised a more intense use of law enforcement both on labor laws and human trafficking.

With the forced exodus of Rohingya boatpeople perhaps the most troubling issue for Thailand and its neighbors, the coup command undertook to raise the issue of the Muslim minority with neighboring countries.

Malaysia, the country where many of the Rohingya are heading when they are mysteriously delivered into the hands of traffickers at secret camps in southern Thailand, was also relegated to Tier 3.

While genuine progress appears to have been made by Thailand in dealing with some issues highlighted in the report, silence and secrecy still surround the military's approach to the treatment of the would-be refugees.

''There continued to be reports that corrupt Thai civilian and military officials profited from the smuggling of Rohingya asylum seekers from Burma and Bangladesh (who transit through Thailand in order to reach Malaysia or Indonesia) and were complicit in their sale into forced labor on fishing vessels,'' the report says.

''Thai navy and marine officials allegedly diverted to Thailand boats carrying Rohingya asylum seekers en route to Malaysia and facilitated the transfer of some migrants to smugglers and brokers who sold some Rohingya into forced labor on fishing vessels.

''Additionally, there are media reports that some Thai police officials systematically removed Rohingya men from detention facilities in Thailand and sold them to smugglers and brokers; these smugglers and brokers allegedly transported the men to southern Thailand where some were forced to work as cooks and guards in camps, or were sold into forced labor on farms or in shipping companies.''

The Royal Thai Navy's unprecedented military versus media law suit against Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian was referenced in the TIP report not once, but three times.

The hollowness of Thailand's previous efforts to target traffickers is spelled out succinctly in a couple of sentences:

''Government labor inspections of 40,963 worksites did not result in the identification of any suspected cases of labor trafficking. The Marine Police and the Thai navy did not uncover any suspected cases of trafficking during ownership and registration inspections of 10,427 vessels.''

Judging by the comments of Thailand's coup commander, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, in his weekly televised commentary last night, the treatment of migrant workers and Rohingya refugees is likely to be made a priority over the next few weeks.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, stressed after the downgrade that Thailand remains ''committed to combating human trafficking because the issue remains a national priority and human trafficking is anathema to our nation's core values.''

The NCPO gives ''utmost importance and support to integrated efforts against human trafficking,'' said a media release.

''Indeed, Thailand's effort is not a reaction to the TIP Report or any particular country, but is the reflection of the country's firm commitment and respect to human rights, internationally accepted standards, and humanitarian values.

''Moreover, Thailand views the need to address human trafficking immediately as it is a scourge on mankind.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Why does Thailand always have to be coerced into meaningful action? It is best summed up by your 'The hollowness of Thailand's previous efforts'. It's always 'stick & carrot' with Thailand.

Posted by Logic on June 22, 2014 01:25


It looks like the U.S. still carries a good-sized stick; meanwhile a few folks in high places in Thailand may need to consider taking the metaphorical carrot (or thumb) out of their own butts, and coerced or not, get moving on the issue. Meanwhile, the U.S. did what Reuter's wouldn't, mentioned the Phuketwan/Navy issue three times, while simultaneously Reuter's strikes out in the bottom of the ninth inning, to a deafening chorus of boos.

Posted by farang888 on June 22, 2014 05:36


Logic, the people of Thailand are brought up to believe Thais do nothing wrong there as a nation Thailand needs to be pressured into any action that has shown it to be failing. When was the last time you saw anything, on Thai media, showing Thailand's failure in human trafficking? When have any officials been brought to answer for their involvement, all been out on bail, for quite some time, we all know there was no intention to proceed with legal proceedings.

Posted by Laurie Howells on June 22, 2014 07:50


With this much going in Thailand now, which appears to be good. Why do we need Democratic Elected officials? Who are only out there to supply their own pockets.
Dictatorship all the way!

Posted by Tbs on June 22, 2014 08:35


@Tbs well said and totally agree.

Posted by Rod on June 22, 2014 10:29


Why has this only been done now? Is it because the American's front man Thaksin has been side-lined?

The guy who tried unsuccessfully to sneakily push through a free trade agreement with the U.S that would have allowed the likes of monsanto into Thai agriculture.

The last thing the Americans really care about is "human rights." Saudi Arabia is far worse than Thailand but they say nothing. It's just about control and money and the American's are just damn hypocrites.

Posted by Arun Muruga on June 22, 2014 11:26


Arun Muruga, for some reason you take an article on slavery and turn it into an attack on the US. Just to enlighten you, this is not, as you say, the first time Thailand has been downgraded, you seem to have missed the fact they have now reached the bottom, 3rd, tier, to reach this tier they dropped from tier 2. Having a gripe about the US is one thing but please get it right.

Posted by Laurie Howells on June 22, 2014 16:00


Farang888, one would now expect the RTN to now lay charges against the US government, if they don't then their action against Alan and Chutima look a bit weaker.

Posted by Laurie Howells on June 22, 2014 16:09


AM, I though free trade agreements were generally a benefit to the developing country. Your reasoning that TS was somehow a puppet of the US is just your own personal fantasy. My understanding was TS did not rally care about anyone else.
As for Saudi Arabia being worse than Thailand, well Saudi Arabia is also tier 3, which suggests both are failures.
But you should really thank the yanks, for without them you would probably be a citizen of Japan.
Of course the world is about control and money, except for those who are still naive enough to believe otherwise.

Posted by Manowar on June 22, 2014 17:34


Damn right, Laurie. It would be nothing less than logical than that the Royal Thai Navy took severe (and immediate) umbrage to this scurrilous and evil attack on their reputation - and maybe even produce some tangible evidence that would perhaps refute such allegations. I'm waiting with bated breath. Not.

Posted by Sam Wilko on June 22, 2014 18:05


Neither of you answered my initial question. Why has this been done now?

My next question is why is my criticism of certain U.S Government policy taken as an attack on the whole U.S?

Thaksin's 'war on drugs' killed over 2000 people without arrest or trial. Possibly one of the greatest abuses of human rights in Thailand's recent history. Saw little said about that.

I'm questioning the timing of the down-grade when it's clear the new Junta is taking steps to undo the years of corruption and nepotism of previous Governments.

I have tremendous respect for the person who fights for his country regardless of the situation. I have much less respect for the liars and chicken-hawks who wage war for profit.

Posted by Arun Muruga on June 22, 2014 18:19

Editor Comment:

The TIP process has nothing to do with politics. Countries are advised when they move to a TIP ''watch list'' that they face a further downgrade.


All I ever see is a clamoring for moral superiority. America, Australia or whoever should concentrate on taking care and providing jobs for their own citizens rather than meddling in Thai affairs.

Thailand has a long way to go but has improved greatly in the last 20 years. Ask anybody from Burma or Cambodia where they'd rather live. That doesn't mean I support the trafficking of people either. As if our own countries never had these problems in the past. We worked it out in time as will the Thais.

Posted by Arun Muruga on June 22, 2014 19:14

Editor Comment:

It seems the Rohingya slipped by unnoticed in your review, AM. Better to live by international standards than your imaginary standards.


AM, perhaps if you actually read the document in question, you may be able to answer you own questions.

It has been done now because that's when the report was completed. It has nothing to do with the timing of the military coup.

Why is your criticism of US policy taken as an attack on the whole of the US. What other country would a sane person consider you were attacking?

Thaksin killing off drug dealers as being a human rights abuse. When this occurred wasn't Thaksin PM of Thailand, therefor the abuse was done by the government of Thailand. Or should Dubai now be blamed?
The coup has been in place for one month, the research and report has not been undertaken specifically to report on the last 4 weeks, it takes 12 months and is released annually.

All wars are fought for power and profit but some are unable to distinguish between propaganda, what they want to believe, and simple facts.

Posted by Manowar on June 22, 2014 20:08


Laurie, the RTN would prefer to bully the little guy, not the elephant with the biggest stick, so in all likelihood the RTN will figure this out, and find a way to gracefully back out, and away from the noxious substance they created. They have almost a year to do so..

Posted by farang888 on June 22, 2014 21:15


After Iraq and Afghanistan I hope you understand my confusion about 'international standards.' As for propaganda, remember a little thing called 'Weapons of mass destruction'??
Now that was a master class in bs. Nobody cares about the Rohingya, just like the Tamils- they have no strategic importance.

Posted by Arun Muruga on June 22, 2014 21:19


Bear in mind this report covers up to a date pre-dating the coup. Give the current crop a chance to sort things out.

Posted by Mister Ree on June 22, 2014 22:18


America may make many mistakes along the way but at least they do sometimes support those inhumanely treated. Whether that be because of oil, gas or food stock history will decide.
Like the government of every country, policies are based on what benefit they will receive.

Ask anybody from Burma or Cambodia where they would want to live. Do you really believe that these people move to Thailand for a better life or do you think survival and opportunities in their own country are limited. If you have a family and it's impossible to provide them with basic food and essentials, parents have an obligation to their children to at least provide sufficient food to survive. You would struggle to present an argument that even though they do travel in search of basic work, their quality of life is anything but dismal.
Thailand has improved in the last 20 years. Really or is that just what you wish to believe?. Maybe Thailand has improved, I don't know but then again maybe every country has improved and the benchmark changes to reflect the overall position.

Countries should not meddle in Thai Affairs. So you consider that trafficking should be ignored and we should just pretend it does not occur.
What right does a person have to own and sell another for profit? What mental deficiency does a person have to believe that peoples lives are just a commodity to do with what they wish.

The Laws of any country are there for the reason of providing its people security and basic rights of freedom. The laws are owned by the people, enforced by the people through representatives such as police and the judicial system. People are responsible to ensure the system functions and have the obligation to report crime, do what's necessary to prevent it and not just turn a blind eye. Failure of this obligation by any person places them in the same category as the person who actually commits the crime.

So you response is it will all be worked out in time. In the timeframe you vaguely state, what is the acceptable level of death or slavery?

Would you accept your own family being in such a position 'until it's worked out' ? Or is it just the ignorance that as long as it does not happen to me, any time frame is OK? The typical, pretend it's not that bad attitude.

Posted by Manowar on June 23, 2014 01:02


In the recent calls for a clean up of Phuket, I've seen it said many times Phuket needs a 'benevolent dictator' like Lee Kuan Yew.

That's interesting given Singapore under Yew constantly refused to give even temporary shelter to refugees.

When asked about Vietnamese refugees many years ago Yew responded by saying-

"You must grow calluses on your heart or you just bleed to death. Can I afford to have people festering away in refugee camps, being hawked around to countries that are supposed to have compassion for long suffering humanity."

Doesn't sound too benevolent to me! Also, Obama campaigned on the promise he would close Guantanamo Bay if elected. Still waiting Barack! As I said, damn hypocrites.

Posted by Arun Muruga on June 23, 2014 12:40

Editor Comment:

Comparisons between Singapore and Phuket relating to corruption are based on both being islands. The refugee issue is clearly a national one. Singapore has always argued it's too small for refugees.


AM, sorry, I dont understand your confusion but that probably makes two of us. Iraq and Afghanistan had nothing to do with people smuggling unless of course you are referring to terrorists cross crossing the border of Pakistan. There was no slave labour, there was no sale, the only common issue would probably be corrupt border officials.
WMD and propaganda. Just how is this related to smuggling. You appear to be confused about the topics of people smuggling and war and attempts to somehow merge the two, only discredits you opinion.

Nobody cares about Rohingya and Tamils, they have no strategic importance. Incorrect again. If no one cared the issues would not be reported, we would not be discussing this issue, Thailand would not have been downgraded and a couple of journalists we know could cancel their one way tickets to the Bahamas.

Posted by Manowar on June 23, 2014 14:11


AM, do you realise that Guantanamo Bay is not a refugee camp. You appear to have some anger towards the US and justify this with irrelevant comparisons and opinions. What Obama did or did not promise the US people is hardly relevant to the topic of discussion and unless you are a US citizen, or Fantasyland has been adopted as the 51st state, not really a concern for you either

Posted by Manowar on June 23, 2014 19:02

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