Failure to meet minimum standards in fighting human trafficking has landed Thailand and Malaysia on a State Department blacklist, a move that could strain relations with two important U.S. partners in Asia. Thailand had mounted a determined campaign to prevent a downgrade that could exact a reputational cost on its lucrative seafood and shrimp industries for which America is a key market. Thailand and Malaysia are among 23 countries to receive the lowest ranking, “tier 3”. Incumbents at that level include Iran, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Zimbabwe.
Impunity for pervasive trafficking-related corruption continued to impede progress in combating trafficking.
complicity,” U.S. Ambassador at-Large Luis CdeBaca
The report paints a grim picture: Some migrants remain at sea for several years, working 18 to 20 hours per day for seven days a week, facing threats and beatings. It notes Thai civilian and military officials reportedly profited from the smuggling of minority Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and their sale into forced labor on fishing vessels. The U.S. said that anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in Malaysia have decreased, with less investigations and convictions in 2013 than in 2012. Migrant workers on palm oil plantations, construction sites, textile factories and in homes as domestic workers face wage fraud and restrictions on their movement. The Trafficking in Persons Report is one of several annual assessments issued by the department on human rights-related topics, but it’s unusual in that it ranks nations, which can ruffle diplomatic feathers.