BANGKOK/HO CHI MINH CITY/TOKYO — Geography has helped Thailand and Vietnam compete for a large share of investment flowing out of China. But it has also thrown a wrench in their plans as trafficking persists along Southeast Asia’s porous borders, especially in their shared neighbor Cambodia.
In its latest Trafficking in Persons report, the U.S. State Department downgraded Vietnam and Cambodia to its bottom tier and put Indonesia on a watchlist. Governments fearful of losing U.S. investment and economic aid are typically motivated to aim for the first or second tiers. At risk of falling into the third tier, Thailand spent the past year improving agency coordination and prosecuting officials complicit in human trafficking.