According to Reuters, the US State Department downgraded Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela on Friday (June 20) to its list of the world's worst centers of human trafficking, opening up the countries to possible sanctions and relegating them into the same category as North Korea and Syria.
The three countries were all downgraded to the lowest "Tier 3" status in the US State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report as they did not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
Thai officials repeatedly expressed confidence that their country would be upgraded, submitting a 78-page report to the US government in April to make its case.
The downgrades could cause some multinational companies to reconsider investments in industries accused of using trafficked labor such as fisheries, a lucrative business in Thailand, the world’s largest exporter of shrimp.
The identified countries could also lose US non-humanitarian and non-trade-related aid, and they could face US opposition to help from international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
COMMENT: Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela promote themselves as modern, fast-developing countries, yet their Tier 3 ranking puts them among the world’s most lawless, oppressive and dysfunctional.
A third of Tier 3 countries, among them Mauritania and Yemen, also appear on the United Nations list of least-developed nations. Many Tier 3 countries (Syria, Central African Republic) are at war; others (Zimbabwe, North Korea) are dictatorships.
The report said Venezuela was making insufficient efforts to combat sex trafficking and forced labor as it had failed to come up with a written plan to bring it into compliance with minimum standards for eliminating trafficking.
Last month, Washington canceled some security cooperation projects with Thailand to protest the country's military coup on May 22.
Friday's State Department report said that while Myanmar did not fully comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, "it is making significant efforts to do so."