Threat of sanctions unless Bangkok can sort its human trafficking trade, as Guardian investigation shows migrants enslaved on boats working in shrimp supply chain
The US is considering downgrading Thailand on a human trafficking blacklist, following revelations in the Guardian that slaves are being used in the production of prawns sold in leading American, British and European supermarkets.
Washington will directly address allegations of human trafficking in Thailand’s trade in prawns – known in the US as shrimp – in an imminent report that could result in economic sanctions against Bangkok. The state department has confirmed it intends to review the country’s response to abuses such as migrants being bought by shipowners and forced to work as slaves for years at sea without pay.
The review, expected in the middle of this month, could result in Thailand being downgraded to the lowest level in a US system that ranks 188 nations according to their willingness and efforts to combat slavery and human trafficking. A relegation to tier three could trigger economic sanctions and loss of development aid, although such punishments can be waived under certain national security considerations.
“We are aware of the Guardian investigation,” said Luis CdeBaca, Washington’s Ambassador-at-Large for monitoring and combatting trafficking in persons, in a statement.
“We are currently finalising the 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, which will be released later this month, and will include an overview of human trafficking in Thailand and the Thai government’s efforts to address human trafficking.”
The annual Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report is considered to be the gold standard in global anti-trafficking efforts. Last year Thailand narrowly escaped relegation for the third year running and was told it would face an automatic downgrade this year if significant progress was not made to address issues of slavery and trafficking within its borders by the end of the year.
Last year, for the third year running, Thailand narrowly escaped relegation and was told it would face an automatic downgrade this year if significant progress was not made to address issues of slavery and trafficking within its borders by the end of the year.