BANGKOK – Thailand should be downgraded by the US State Department in its annual report on human trafficking because of its lack of progress in protecting garment and fishing workers, according to a coalition of human rights groups.

Thailand had failed to provide sufficient evidence of increased efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking from the previous year, according to the Thai Seafood Working Group (SWG), a coalition of almost 60 labour, human rights and green groups working to stop forced labour in the Thai seafood industry.

“Thailand continues to be a country where workers are abused and exploited,” said Esmeralda Lopez, a director at the Washington-based International Labour Rights Forum, an advocacy group and SWG member.

“This is particularly the case in the fishing and garment sectors.”

Over the last four years, Thailand has sought to clean up its multi-billion dollar fishing industry after investigations revealed widespread abuses and the European Union threatened to ban imports from the country.

Last year, Thailand was ranked as a Tier 2 country – above the lowest ranking of Tier 3 – in the US State Department’s closely watched Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which noted that the country was making significant efforts to combat the crime.

But in a separate report, the SWG called on the US to place Thailand on its Tier 2 Watch List, a category denoting nations that have not fully met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and deserve special scrutiny.

The Thai government had made no progress in key areas, including the number of forced labour cases, labour inspections, assisting potential victims of trafficking, as well as addressing widespread debt bondage and the withholding of workers’ travel documents, the report said.


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