In 2018, Thailand was upgraded to Tier 2 in the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Over the past year, The Royal Thai Government (RTG) has ratified the optional protocol to the ILO Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (No. 29) and the ILO Convention on Work in Fishing (No. 188). Additionally, the RTG is in the process of defining and criminalizing forced labor, however this change is still a draft law. While we welcome these policy changes, the Thai Seafood Working Group coalition members have seen little actual change on the ground to indicate that the ILO convention ratifications and legal changes are more than words on paper. Even with the legal improvements made over the past year, Thai workers and migrant workers are still vulnerable to forced labor and human trafficking due to the denial of freedom of association, weak enforcement of labor laws, and closing civil society space.
The Thai Seafood Working Group, a coalition of over 60 labor rights, human rights, and environmental non-governmental organizations, recommends that Thailand remain at a Tier 2 ranking since it does not fully meet the minimum standards as set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, particularly with regard to the rights of migrant workers, and its inadequate efforts to enforce labor laws.
Thailand’s military government claims that combatting human trafficking is a top government priority, but it has failed to put in place accountability measures to reign in corruption or empower migrant workers to seek legal remedies against abusive employers, which are necessary to counter the profit motive for ongoing human trafficking. Thailand remains dependent on an inexpensive workforce to fuel its booming export economy and continues to enjoy significant economic benefit from the current system. Additionally, with elections occurring in 2019, there is concern about the risk of backsliding on progress as the Thai business community has strong political ties and has advocated to overturn or weaken reforms, due to this we recommend any considerations of upgrading Thailand be postponed until there has been a democratic transition of power. Based on the evidence included in these comments and given that the fundamental vulnerability of migrant workers remains unchanged, we believe Thailand has not made sufficient efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons to warrant an upgrade in its current ranking in the Trafficking in Persons Report. We urge the State Department to maintain Thailand at the Tier 2 ranking in the upcoming Report.