Thailand claims progress in curbing human trafficking after downgrade by the US 

THAILAND is ''genuine and sincere and trying to do our utmost'' to combat human trafficking, deputy foreign minister Don Pramudwinai said on Friday as he released a 154-page report on human trafficking listing recent measures including arrests and prosecutions.

''This is one of our top priorities'' the deputy minister insisted, as the country tries to establish its credibility after being downgraded last year to Tier 3 - the bottom most rung - in the annual US State Department Trafficking in Human Persons (TIP) report and being slammed by international human rights organisations.

Thailand's Trafficking in Persons 2014 Country Report, which will be posted online early next week, said last year 115 cases of human trafficking were prosecuted and 104 defendants convicted. These included 11 police officers with the rank of colonel and above who were currently under prosecution on criminal charges.

The kingdom's downgrade to "Tier 3" in the annual TIP report puts it in company with countries likes Syria and North Korea. The rating is given to ''countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.''  

Thailand was placed in Tier 2 previously, and the downgrade was automatic after four consecutive years with no improvement.

Thailand at the time had expressed ''disappointment'' with the decision and claimed it had made ''significant progress'' in combating human trafficking - and would intensify its efforts. The military regime said it would make cracking down on human trafficking a priority.

A Tier 3 rating would normally trigger a range of sanctions from the US, US President Barack Obama waived the sanctions in Thailand's case.

Mr Songsak Saichuea, director-general of the ministry of foreign affairs' department of American and South Pacific Affairs, said ''We are confident we have done a lot and made serious sustained efforts and have produced tangible outcomes and it will continue. 

''The involvement  starts from the Prime Minister's level, and not only in the government sector; we involve Thai and international non government organisations as well,'' he said. 

nirmal@sph.com.sg