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

In January 2018, Human Rights Watch released a report describing rights abuses and forced labor in Thailand's Fishing Industry. This story compiles commentaries and additional reports on this issue.



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29 July 2018

Thailand: Fishing operators demand govt. to allow hiring of migrant workers, revise stringent regulations

Author: Bangkok Post

"Fishermen threaten strike", 29 July 2017

The commercial fishing sector has renewed its call for the government to bypass the lengthy hiring process for migrant workers or face a strike. 

...[F]ishing operators have demanded that they should be allowed to hire migrant alleviate the current labour crunch. 

..According to the fishing operators, the government should also revise certain stringent stipulations because they are hampering their business operations. 


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16 July 2018

Thailand: Human Rights Watch urges EU to verify progress on fishing reforms before lifting yellow-card sanction

Author: Human Rights Watch

"Thailand: Labor Abuses Persist in Fishing Fleets," 15 July 2018

The Thai government has failed to address widespread labor rights abuses in Thailand’s fishing fleets, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to senior European Union officials. 

Human Rights Watch urged the EU to renew efforts for serious reforms of Thai policies and practices to effectively curtail forced labor and other abusive treatment of migrant fishing workers. 

Under pressure from the EU and other governments, the Thai government adopted a series of reforms to improve labor rights in the fishing industry. But since the much-publicized consultation between the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment and the Thai Ministry of Labour on May 16-17, 2018, in Brussels, little has improved. 

Migrant workers still enter into fishing work in debt bondage, and are prevented from changing employers, not paid on time, and paid below the minimum wage, as documented in Human Rights Watch’s 2018 report, “Hidden Chains: Rights Abuses and Forced Labor in Thailand’s Fishing Industry.”



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8 July 2018

Thailand: Multi-sector approach is key to fight human trafficking in the seafood industry

Author: Petchtachat Arayasomboon, Bangkok Post

"In the fight against human trafficking a multi-sector approach is key", 3 July 2018

Oxfam Thailand in collaboration with the Asian Research Center for Migration and Center for Social Development Studies…held a seminar…. Gathering representatives from all sectors to share their progress and obstacles [:]

..."The Thai Union company has set up a welfare committee...."

..."For this committee to be needs to be proportionally representative of the workforce and it needs to be endowed with the authority to make relevant decisions...."

..."Providing migrant workers with clear and transparent information such as a job description, working hours and the terms of a contract beforehand is an effective way of getting the right person...."

..."In addition to informing workers about duties and basic rights…a company must ensure that there is a working insurance and an accessible way for workers to make a complaint...."

…[T]here is a growing need for more government regulators in order to cope with the many thousands of boats.... 

...What's most important, the seminar concluded, is to find a way to collaborate and to take proactive measures….

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10 June 2018

Thailand: Forced labour, trafficking, & non-payment wages still plague Southeast Asian fishing industry

Author: Rajat Sethi & Jim Pollard, Asia Times

...[P]roblems plaguing Southeast Asia’s notorious fishing industry remain messy and unresolved.

Nearly 3,000 fishermen have been rescued from Benjina Island...But hundreds more Thai, Myanmar, Cambodian and Lao fishermen are believed to remain stuck there....

...Returned fishermen...said forced labor, human trafficking and non-payment of workers continue to be a concern.

...[H]undreds of foreign fishermen are still caught in Indonesia, because of a lack of identity documents or being deemed to have worked illegally.

...[T]here have also been signs of progress...The Thai government recently ratified the ILO protocol against forced labor and is now drafting a law against it.  

...“This makes Thailand the first member country, the first country in Asia to ratify this protocol.  And we’re still waiting to see the law that follows, the draft act, if it advances the law against forced labor in terms of victim protection.”

...Enforcement of regulations was the best way to raise standards in the fishing industry, Judd said.

The ILO is working with businesses and employee groups, as well as the government, to try to ensure that workers are not made to work more than 14 hours a day.

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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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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..., “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 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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