US concerned by slow Thai response to human-trafficking cases: Surapong

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BANGKOK, May 10 – Thailand urged the US not to downgrade the Southeast Asian country in its latest review of the human trafficking situation here, but the US expressed concern over Thailand’s painstakingly slow procedures in tackling cases. 

Speaking to reporters on Thursday upon his return from a visit to Washington, Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said he had discussed several issues with his US counterpart John Kerry, highlighting the Thai government’s efforts in dealing with the problem of trafficking in persons.

Thailand’s newly-established One-Stop Crisis Centres on assistance and protection for various target groups, including victims of human trafficking, was cited as an example of such efforts.

The minister said he hoped the efforts would be reflected positively in the upcoming US State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report which is to be published next month.

The US Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report has put Thailand on the Tier 2 Watch List for three consecutive years and the government is concerned that the country may slip into Tier 3 if no meaningful action is taken to deal with the human trafficking problem.

A country in the Tier 2 Watch List is not yet compliant to the maximum standards to combat trafficking in persons and is in danger of falling to Tier 3, which is worse.

Mr Kerry said he would consider Thailand’s request to not be downgraded in the forthcoming US State Department report, but expressed concern over Thailand’s lengthy judiciary procedures in tackling human trafficking cases, Mr Surapong said.

The two ministers also discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, as well as global issues of common concern.

On regional issues, Mr Surapong welcomed Washington’s Strategic Rebalancing policy focusing on reengagement with Asia, particularly the importance the US has given to ASEAN centrality. He stressed that American engagement in ASEAN integration efforts can serve as a stabilising force in the region.

The partnership will help address political-security challenges in the ASEAN region, including transnational crime, human trafficking, piracy, and disaster. The Thai foreign minister welcomed continued American support for reform in Myanmar and said he hoped that the US would lift all remaining sanctions on Myanmar.

Mr Surapong informed his counterpart that Thailand as current country coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations is determined to work closely with all concerned to build trust and confidence among the relevant parties as well as to expand common ground, and to push forward implementation of the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in tandem with the Code of Conduct process.

Mr Surapong also highlighted Thailand’s active participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism as well as its participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative.