A US State Department official, during a visit to Bangkok on Monday, criticized Thailand’s deportation last week of more than 900 Cambodian illegal immigrants, the English-language Thai newspaper The Nation reported Tuesday.
John Miller, director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, who was in Thailand to announce a $970,000 grant to Thailand to combat human trafficking, said the deportations would expose the Cambodian migrants to traffickers and to further trafficking across the border into Thailand.
Miller said he believes some of the deportees were victims of trafficking, The Nation reported. “The cycle of trafficking begins again,” Miller said.
Cambodian government officials who have seen the deportees said they were too strong to be merely beggars, leading many to believe they were working in Thailand, although illegally. The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh refused comment on the matter.
Mark Larsen, the press officer at the US Embassy in Thailand, said the embassy stood by comments made by Miller at the Monday news conference hosted by the US Embassy, but had no comment on the validity of any news story about the comments.
“The US Embassy in Thailand strongly supports the comments made yesterday by John Miller, and we will continue to support all efforts to stop human trafficking,” Larsen said by phone Tuesday.
The State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons 2003” report ranked Thailand in Tier 2 of its three-tier monitoring system used to measure the efforts countries are taking to combat human trafficking, said a statement from the US Embassy in Thailand.
In the annual State Department trafficking report ratings, Tier 1 countries comply with minimum standards in fighting trafficking, Tier 2 countries do not fully comply with minimum standards but are trying, while Tier 3 countries do not comply with standards and do not try.
Nonetheless, the State Department approved $1 million in financial assistance for Thailand to fight trafficking in 2003 and 2004, with one-third going to the Thai government and two-thirds going to NGOs, the statement said.