Thailand: Tackling Human Trafficking Problem

CNN – Ever since Myo’s head was smashed into a block of ice he’s had trouble hearing. The Burmese man, whose name has been changed for his safety, was on a fishing boat in Thailand last year when it happened.

He had left Myanmar, also known as Burma, thinking he was going to work in a factory processing pineapple. But when he arrived in Thailand, he says, his recruiters sold him to a boat captain for the equivalent of around $430. After being held on the vessel for 10 months, working against his will and suffering regular beatings, he finally managed to escape.

Myo’s story features in the United States’ latest report on countries efforts to fight modern slavery around the world. It echoes numerous other accounts told by trafficking survivors to international media and human rights groups in Thailand in recent years.

Many are foreign migrants who report being forced into labor or prostitution; some face physical abuse or even death. The lucky ones escape or know someone who can pay the exorbitant price for their release.

For four years the U.S. State Department has warned Thailand that it hasn’t been doing enough to combat human trafficking. It said the country was a source, transit point and destination for trafficking, with ethnic minorities and citizens of neighboring countries at particular risk of exploitation in the sex trade and forced labor.

In the State Department’s 2012 and 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, Thailand faced relegation to the worst category, but received waivers based on a plan to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards for eliminating trafficking.

On Friday, when the State Department released its 2014 report, it automatically downgraded Thailand to the lowest possible ranking, after the country reached its limit of waivers and failed to show significant improvement.

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