The United States will remove Thailand from a list that currently ranks the Southeast Asian country as among the worst countries for human trafficking in the world, according to a new report from Reuters.
The action, which will move Thailand up from Tier 3 to Tier 2 of the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, is a boost to the Thai government, a military junta led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who has pledged to fight human trafficking in his country, particularly in the seafood sector.
"The international community will see that what the prime minister told the international community he would do, he did," Thai spokesman Major Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd told Reuters.
Thailand has been criticized in numerous media reports that have revealed widespread human trafficking and other human rights abuses, including slavery onboard the nation’s fishing vessels and in seafood processing plants. Recently, Thailand passed several laws designed to eliminate human trafficking in the country and has pushed other reforms, including more stringent oversight of ships at sea, as part of its efforts to improve its record.
The move comes as the United States attempts to counter China’s “warming ties with the Thai junta, which has sought to counterbalance the cooling of its traditionally strong U.S. relationship,” Reuters reported. The news organization previously reported in August 2015 that senior U.S. diplomats inflated the grades of strategically important countries, potentially due to political considerations.
The upgrade still leaves Thailand short of a Tier 1 ranking, which the State Department reserves for countries that meet minimum U.S. standards. Tier 2, Thailand’s new ranking, is for those countries “making significant efforts to meet those standards” and Tier 3 is reserved for “countries that are not making significant efforts,” Reuters reported.