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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha inaugurates June 5 as Anti-Human Trafficking Day in a ceremony at Government House on Friday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is optimistic Thailand will be removed from Tier 3 of the United States’ Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report which is expected to be released at the end of this month, saying the country has done all it can to combat human trafficking.
The prime minister has also pledged to end the slave trade during his government’s tenure.
Gen Prayut said the country has done its best to deal with human trafficking and that he hoped its efforts would gain international recognition and its TIP report ranking would be upgraded.
The government submitted its anti-trafficking report on March 31 to Washington for assessment, providing details about progress in combating the scourge.
In June last year, the US released its TIP report which downgraded Thailand from Tier 2 to Tier 3 — the lowest level — due to its lack of progress in combating human trafficking.
Gen Prayut also said the government is stepping up efforts to crack down on so-called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing to avoid a European Union (EU) ban on Thailand’s seafood exports.
He said “a complete overhaul” is needed to better regulate fishing activities and crack down on IUU fishing, even though the measures will have an adverse impact on poor people working in the fishing industry.
The EU claimed Thailand has not done enough to tackle IUU fishing and gave Thailand a “yellow card” — a final warning — on April 21.
The EU gave the country six months to address the problem or face a ban on Thai fishery exports to EU member states.
As part of the new regulations to ease IUU fishing concerns, a new fishing law was enforced from late April aimed at suppressing human trafficking and human rights violations in the fishery industry. In addition, all trawlers have been ordered to register to ensure their operations can be monitored.
During his speech to mark the 2015 National Anti-Human Trafficking Day at Government House on Friday, Gen Prayut said his government is duty-bound to eliminate all shady businesses including human trafficking.
“I am ready to tackle the problem without fear or favour,” the prime minister said.
He stressed that stricter law enforcement and cooperation with international organisations is key to ending human trafficking in Thailand during this government’s tenure.
Under this government, all state agencies must be serious about implementing existing laws, he said.
“All elements supporting human trafficking must be eliminated, be they government officials or any agencies. The government is sincere about solving the problem and is ready to cooperate with international organisations in this matter,” Gen Prayut said.
He said human trafficking had affected the rights and liberties of people and seriously infringed on the principle of human rights. It had also eroded confidence in the country, affecting trade, investment and security.
The prime minister said the root causes of human trafficking were poverty and disparities between people in society.
He said the problem of illegal migrants must be solved and the country’s labour force must be developed.
Trafficked victims must be taken care of and provided with occupational training to enable them to return to society, Gen Prayut said, adding that groups of people and government officials in “grey businesses” must be eliminated.
In doing so, the government needed to improve laws and regulations to ensure effective enforcement, he said.
Government officials found to be involved in human trafficking would face legal and disciplinary action, Gen Prayut
Meanwhile, anti-human trafficking activists and academics have urged the government to change its strategy for dealing with the problem, saying the government’s passive stance has made the human trafficking situation worse.
“If the government does not change the way it works and still engages in ‘passive’ moves to combat human trafficking, Thailand will remain in Tier 3. We deserve it,” said Supang Chantavanich, director of the Asian Research Centre for Migration at Chulalongkorn University.
Ms Supang said if high-ranking officials become involved in a case, justice will be delayed because corruption among officials is an issue in the US’s annual TIP report highlights.
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