The United States as opened sanctions against Thailand, Malaysia, and Venezuela for failing to fight human trafficking. At face value, this is a step in the right direction. The United States has decidedly taken steps towards being pro-active against human trafficking around the world, leveraging its power to motivate nations to fight it.
But is this the kind of tactic that ultimately backfires?
The 2014 U.S. State Department’s report on human trafficking has sent these three countries down to the lowest ‘tier,’ adding them to the likes of Gambia, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Zimbabwe.
“Thailand, the oldest ally of the US in Asia, had mounted a determined campaign to prevent the downgrade that could hurt its seafood and shrimp industries for which America is a key market.
Thai ambassador to the US, Vijavat Isarabhakdi said he was disappointed with the report, saying it did not recognise “our vigorous, government-wide efforts that yielded unprecedented progress and concrete results.””
The Irony of Sanctions
I am not sure imposing sanctions on countries that lack sufficient infrastructure to combat human trafficking is going to ultimately win-out. More developed countries—which have a sufficient infrastructure—are held to the same standards. Shouldn’t they be expected to do even more? How is it that a world that has so many levels of economic power should rate every country the same?
And considering how much economics come into play with human trafficking, it would seem as though leveraging economic sanctions against a country could potentially make trafficking worse! Instead of penalizing countries that are not ‘making the grade,’ shouldn’t we be aiding them to fight it specifically? Moreover, I find it terribly sick and twisted that the United States has placed sanctions against Thailand, while it is people from the United States and other developed nations that are creating the demand for things like sex trafficking in the first place. We are unwittingly perpetuating the problem.
Do you think the United States’ approach to fighting human trafficking around the world needs to be re-evaluated?