Poor trafficking record 'inaccurate'

Thailand has defended itself against an American professor's allegations that the kingdom has a poor human trafficking record, saying the information presented to the United States' House Committee on Foreign Affairs late last month was incomplete and out of date.

Songsak Saichuea, the Foreign Ministry’s director-general of the American and South Pacific Department, insisted Sunday the kingdom has made significant progress in trying to resolve the country's human trafficking problem.

The testimony presented by Georgetown University professor Mark P Logan to the US House committee was inaccurate, he said.

Mr Logan is former ambassador at large of the Trafficking In Persons (TIP) office, a body under the US Department of State that monitors global human trafficking.

He criticised Thailand on at least seven major points in his testimony to the US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organisation last Tuesday.

He said Thailand had defective mechanisms for identifying victims among vulnerable populations, lax investigation, prosecution and conviction of perpetrators and inadequate regulations concerning labour brokers and recruitment fees paid by migrant workers.

Thailand was also complicit in the cross-border smuggling of undocumented migrants, inadequate assistance to victims, and considered thousands of Rohingya people trafficked from Myanmar as smuggling rather than trafficking cases.

Mr Songsak said 674 trafficking cases were investigated last year. The record represented a 120% increase over that in 2012, he said.

A total 483 defendants were prosecuted last year and this also represented a 419% increase over that in the previous year.

He said 225 defendants had been convicted and the Anti-Money Laundering Office also issued orders to seize or freeze suspects' assets worth an estimated 35 million baht last year.

Meanwhile, the Labour Ministry revoked two licences and suspended four licences of private employment companies while bringing nine companies under criminal charges.

Mr Songsak said the country placed 681 trafficking victims in shelters last year and paid 75 victims in criminal cases 2,169,000 baht in compensation.

It also paid another 4,359,227 baht from the Anti-Trafficking Fund to 525 victims.

At least 33 police involved in human trafficking were punished in 2013.

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