Thailand: Forced labour, trafficking, & worker abuse still rampant in fishing industry despite reform measures

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Article
24 January 2018

Forced labour persists in the Thai fishing industry

Author: Emma Richards, Asian Correspondent

"Despite government commitments to reform the industry, forced labour and other rights abuses remain widespread in Thailand’s fishing fleets, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report said Tuesday...The report [...] found migrant workers from neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia are often trafficked into fishing work, prevented from changing employers, not paid on time, and paid below the minimum wage.

The industry came under scrutiny after a 2014 report from the Guardian newspaper exposed the often violent and dehumanising environment many workers are forced to work in...The prawns they catch were then being sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

In response to the Guardians report, the Thai government scrapped antiquated fishing laws and extended labour rights to workers on fishing vessels...

HRW found widespread shortcomings in the government’s implementation of the new regulations, as well as a resistance within the industry to comply...

...Thai labour law makes it difficult for migrant workers to assert their rights. Fishers’ fear of retaliation and abuse by boat captains and vessel owners is a major factor, but Thailand also restricts the rights of migrant workers to organise into labour unions to take collective action.

[Note: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre previously covered the 2014 Guardian report here, incl. comments from companies.]

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Article
23 January 2018

Thailand: Forced labour, trafficking, & worker abuse still rampant in fishing industry despite reform measures

Author: Human Rights Watch

"Thailand: Forced Labor, Trafficking Persist in Fishing Fleets," 23 January 2018

Forced labor and other rights abuses are widespread in Thailand’s fishing fleets despite government commitments to comprehensive reforms...

The...report, “Hidden Chains: Forced Labor and Rights Abuses in Thailand’s Fishing Industry,” describes how migrant fishers from neighboring countries in Southeast Asia are often trafficked into fishing work, prevented from changing employers, not paid on time, and paid below the minimum wage. Migrant workers...do not have the right to form a labor union.

Even though Thailand has received a “yellow card” warning that it could face a ban on exporting seafood to the European Union because of its illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, and the United States has placed Thailand on the Tier 2 Watch List in its latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, Human Rights Watch found widespread shortcomings in the implementation of new government regulations and resistance in the fishing industry to reforms.

...[M]easures to address forced labor and other important labor and human rights protection measures often prioritize form over results...[U]nder the PIPO system...officials speak to ship captains and boat owners...but rarely conduct interviews with migrant fishers.

...[T]here is no effective...inspection of fishers working aboard Thai vessels...[I]n its 2015 report on human trafficking, Thailand revealed that inspections of 474,334 fishery workers failed to identify a single case of forced labor...

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