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Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - Secretary of State John Kerry told Malaysia's leader Wednesday his government should do more to stop people-trafficking, a US official said, a week after Washington controversially praised the country's efforts.
The State Department on July 27 raised Malaysia from its lowest Tier 3 ranking on trafficking to the "Tier 2 Watch List", drawing allegations that President Barack Obama's administration was trying to curry favour with Malaysia to gain its support for a regional trade pact.
Kerry met Prime Minister Najib Razak on the sidelines of an annual regional security forum hosted this year by Malaysia.
"The Secretary noted the steps Malaysia has taken to address its human trafficking but also urged the government of Malaysia to continue taking steps to improve law enforcement and victim protection programmes," a senior State Department official said.
The State Department report last week had said Malaysia exhibited "significant efforts" in fighting trafficking.
But the assessment sparked outrage from human rights and anti-trafficking groups, particularly as it followed the discovery in May of brutal human trafficking camps in Malaysia near the Thai border.
The State Department said its annual evaluation of Malaysia was completed before those revelations emerged.
The United States is involved in negotiations with 12 Pacific Rim countries on a sweeping trade accord that includes Malaysia.
Malaysian rights groups say the government has done little to address the scourge or prosecute traffickers and corrupt officials involved.