On edge of U.S. sanctions, Thailand officials order human-trafficking inspection in Sattahip


As Thailand edges nearer to suffering sanctions from the United States over its record in preventing human trafficking, a fleet of government, police and welfare organizations launched a large-scale inspection of fishing boats based in Sattahip.

Twenty people representing more than a dozen agencies took a Sattahip Marine Police boat out of Warasin Pier to inspect fishing boats and cargo ships in Samae San Bay to check whether workers were being treated fairly, being held captive or oppressed by employers.

An inspection crew prepares to board a local fishing vessel.An inspection crew prepares to board a local fishing vessel.

Wichian Sangiam of the Chonburi Labor Protection and Welfare Office said the inspection was done according to urgent policies of the Minister of Labor to eliminate human-trafficking problems.

The inspection – along with the ministry’s stepped up concern – came just days after a battery of international human-rights organizations petitioned the U.S. government to downgrade Thailand’s standing on the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report. The kingdom was listed on Tier II in the 2013, but activists, not to mention many American politicians, want Thailand dropped to Tier III.

Doing so would trigger U.S. sanctions that include the withholding or withdrawal of U.S. non-humanitarian and non-trade-related assistance. It would also mean that Thailand could face U.S. opposition to assistance from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The 2014 report will be issued next month.

While the fishing industry wasn’t singled out in a late-April U.S. Congressional hearing on Thailand’s human-trafficking record, the Labor Ministry obviously is feeling sensitive.

For the inspection, it dispatched the Labor Protection and Welfare offices of Chonburi and Rayong, the Royal Thai Navy, the Chonburi Police Bureau, the Sattahip Marine Police, Provincial Police Region 5, Sattahip Police Station, Chonburi Immigration, Social Development and Human Security Ministry office in Chonburi, Chonburi Recruitment Office, Chaotha Provincial Office of Chonburi, Chonburi Office of Fisheries and the office of Child, Woman and Family Protection and Anti-Human Trafficking at Police Region 2.

No information on what they found whilst out to sea was released.