WASHINGTON (AP) — Modern-day slavery persists around the world, including the abuse of fishermen in the Thai seafood industry whose catch can end up in U.S. markets, a congressional panel was told Wednesday.

"As has been reported for years, the Thai fishing industry is rife with forced labor, both on the high seas and within seafood processing and packing plants," Mark Lagon, former State Department ambassador for trafficking in persons, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

Lagon, who now heads Freedom House, a nonprofit organization that advocates for human rights, said it remains to be seen whether the Obama administration will impose sanctions it is authorized to deploy, which would bar Thai seafood from U.S. markets.

The State Department's key weapon for combatting human trafficking comes in a politically charged annual ranking in "tiers"— Tier 1 is best, 2 means more could be done, and 3 is a blacklist that can spark sanctions. The House global human rights subcommittee urged the Obama administration to come down hard on those countries that violate human rights when it releases the report in June.

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