Thailand has hit back after being blacklisted in a US report for the second consecutive year for not combatting modern-day slavery, arguing it has made serious steps to tackle human trafficking. The ministry of foreign affairs said the US state department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, released on Monday, “does not accurately reflect the significant efforts undertaken by the government”, which had made “tangible progress”.

Bangkok has been lobbying for an upgrade from the lowest tier 3 rank in the report. Under US law, countries on tier 3 could trigger non-trade-related sanctions such as access to the World Bank and bars on US foreign assistance.
Thailand has pressed charges against more than 100 people, including an army general, on counts of human trafficking after dozens of bodies were found in a jungle prison camp earlier this year. “Relevant agencies [have] intensified their efforts, which led to the crackdowns of trafficking syndicates as well as many arrests and punishments of high-ranking officials complicit in human trafficking,” the ministry said.

In recent weeks, testimony from survivors, human rights groups and the media have exposed appalling practices in Thailand’s export-oriented seafood business, suggesting the human trafficking trade is still in operation.