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Govt fights trafficking as sanctions threatened

By Agencies in Bangkok, Thailand | China Daily | Updated: 2015-06-08 07:47

Thailand is eager to show its newfound toughness on human trafficking, taking reporters on patrols and tours of former camps, working with neighboring countries and the United States, and arresting dozens of officials - including a high-ranking officer in the military that now controls the country. The junta even had a "National Anti-Human Trafficking Day".

The Southeast Asian country is trying to dissuade Western governments from leveling economic sanctions, but it has a daunting enemy: History.

"Thailand remains major center for human trafficking." Those words were emblazoned on a huge headline in a Thai daily newspaper printed nearly three years ago. The country's answer was largely to ignore the problem, but recent events have made that impossible.

The discovery of 36 bodies at abandoned traffickers' camps near Thailand's southern border with Malaysia has intensified international pressure on Thailand to crack down on smugglers. So has a subsequent crisis involving thousands of migrants who were stranded at sea by their traffickers - and whose boats were pushed back by Thai officials. Those migrants, mainly Bangladeshis and ethnic Rohingya migrants from Myanmar, are just part of a human-trafficking problem that also includes Thai fishing boats that have used slave labor.

Last June, Thailand and Malaysia were put on a blacklist in a US State Department assessment on human trafficking, a downgrade that can jeopardize its seafood and shrimp industries. The European Union also threatened Thailand with a ban on seafood imports by the end of the year unless it drastically changes its policies on illegal and unregulated fishing.

A new State Department assessment is due this month, and Thailand is pushing for an upgrade with efforts that included its first-ever Anti-Human Trafficking Day on Friday. The opening ceremony at the prime minister's Government House was followed by discussion about the problem and an awards ceremony for a journalist, police and officials who have helped expose human-trafficking problems.

"Today, we have to admit human trafficking has been a problem in Thailand for a long time," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said as he opened the event.

AP - Xinhua



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