Friday, July 22, 2011

Measurements of Abhisit’s Failure Series Part I - Human Trafficking

Nobody could have imagined how disastrous Abhisit’s government would become when the military installed him as Prime Minister. Now that his dreadful reign is almost at an end we can look back and use measurements from various organizations to gauge his many failures. Yingluck is going to have her hands full in reversing these trends.

One good thing that the US government actually does is the engagement on the fight against human trafficking in the world.  In 2000, the US Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act (TVPA). One of this law’s requirements is for the Department of State to submit a Report each year to the U.S. Congress on foreign governments’ efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.

The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts. It is the U.S. Government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on this key human rights and law enforcement issue. Worldwide, the report is used by international organizations, foreign governments, and nongovernmental organizations alike as a tool to examine where resources are most needed. Freeing victims, preventing trafficking, and bringing traffickers to justice are the ultimate goals of the report.

In the TIP Report, which comes out each June, the Department of State places each country onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” found in Section 108 of the TVPA.


Countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards.

Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards 


a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;

b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or

c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.

Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

The TVPA lists additional factors through which to determine whether a country should be on Tier 2 (or Tier 2 Watch List) versus Tier 3. First, the extent to which the country is a country of origin, transit, or destination for severe forms of trafficking. Second, the extent to which the country’s government does not comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and, in particular, the extent to which officials or government employees have been complicit in severe forms of trafficking. And third, reasonable measures required to bring the government into compliance with the minimum standards in light of the government’s resources and capabilities to address and eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.

Below is the graph of Thailand’s Tier Rankings by year since the TIP reporting began in 2001.
Abhisit has managed to bring down Thailand's Human Trafficking Tier level to the next to the lowest ranking available during his first full year of office and kept it at that level for the following year. 

And remember that in 2010, US Senator Jim Webb (DEM – Virginia), who headed the Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, had made an unusually open appeal not to place Thailand on the watch list. He said that the US embassy staff disagreed with the intended downgrade as it could curb assistance for democracy and human rights programs in the wake of the kingdom's political violence.

But this is typical for the US embassy in Thailand. They have done more to support the Thai Government than they have done to assist “democracy and human rights” in Thailand. Go ask American Joe Gordon or any of the hundreds of other political prisoners being held in Thai Prisons for trumped up les majeste charges (but that's another topic).

Of course, Secretary of State Clinton correctly rejected this appeal. According to the TVPA, it would be illegal for her to change a Tier ranking or a narrative based upon the US embassy’s pathetic excuses.

Besides, pursuant to the TVPA, the U.S. government may withhold or withdraw only nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance to Thailand for being on the Tier 2 Watch List. For countries on Tier 3 may not receive funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programs. Consistent with the TVPA, governments subject to sanctions would also face U.S. opposition to assistance (except for humanitarian, trade-related, and certain development-related assistance) from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

It is also interesting to note that in 2008, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act included a provision that any country that has been ranked Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years and that would otherwise be ranked Tier 2 Watch List for the next year will instead be ranked Tier 3 for the next year.  Thailand now has been on the Tier 2 Watch list for two consecutive years!

This may be the real reason why the US embassy staff balked at placing Thailand on Tier 2 Watch List. They probably realized that in a couple of years, with Abhisit as PM and his record of ignoring human rights, Thailand would eventually become Tier 3.

No tier ranking is permanent. Hopefully with a Pheu Thai led government, Thailand can and will do more to combat trafficking.

The Trafficking in Persons Report for 2011 can be found here. 

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