WASHINGTON • The United States has decided to remove Thailand from its list of worst human trafficking offenders, officials said, a move that could help smooth relations with Bangkok's military-run government.
The upgrade, confirmed to Reuters by a United States official in Washington and a Bangkok-based official from an international organisation with direct knowledge of the rankings, would mark a rare boost for US-Thai relations.
Ties between the countries have flat-lined since the Thai military seized power in a 2014 coup that Washington strongly condemned.
It also comes as President Barack Obama works to forge a united front among wavering South-east Asian countries against China's pursuit of its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Bangkok has protested publicly to Washington that it should be removed from the lowest ranking on the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons report, which is due to be released today.
The report is expected to cite improvements in Thailand's efforts to combat human trafficking, especially in its vital multibillion-dollar seafood industry, the US official said.
The upgrade would put Thailand on a so-called "Tier 2 Watch List" and remove it from the rating for countries with the worst human-trafficking records, known as Tier 3. Major-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman for the Thai premier's office, said the upgrade shows that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had stuck to his pledge to fight human trafficking in response to international criticism.