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Thailand: Guardian report details abuse in fishing industry & names global brands in supply chain

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31 July 2014

Thailand: Costco, Morrisons, Tesco & others join CP Foods-hosted meeting on addressing trafficking & forced labour in supply chain

Author: Annie Kelly, Guardian (UK)

Thai fishing boat by timmarec via Flickr.com (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Supermarket giants in Thailand for prawn slavery talks”, 30 July 2014

UK and US supermarket groups are meeting in Thailand…to create a taskforce to tackle trafficking and forced labour in the shrimp feed industry…The three-day meeting will be hosted by Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, the world's largest prawn farmer, which the Guardian found buys fishmeal from suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boards manned with slaves. Morrisons, Tesco and Costco US, which buy farmed shrimp from CP Foods, are among the retailers expected to attend the talks with Thai government representatives. Several international catering and food-service firms including Sodexo, Brakes as well as campaigners from Oxfam and the Environmental Justice Foundation will be among the attendees…The aim of the meeting is to agree on the terms of an industry action group, which will work with CP Foods to establish a global benchmark in sustainable shrimp-feed production. It will also help the Thai government create a strategy to halt human trafficking and forced labour in the seafood supply chain…[refers to Carrefour, Whole Foods]

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7 July 2014

Thailand: Rights groups propose ways for companies to address modern-day slavery in the Thai fishing industry

Author: Marta Kasztelan, Food Navigator Asia

“How companies should act to stamp out fishing slavery in Thailand”, 7 July 2014

If modern-day slavery is ever to be eradicated from Thailand’s food sector, companies and supermarkets must set out to make their supply chains more transparent—a move for which there seems to be little appetite, especially among Thai suppliers...Promoting transparency in the supply chain is also a must for any company serious about its obligation under the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights…[The] Southeast Asia researcher and representative of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre…[said]: “It is now time for these brands to present concrete steps…It is also important to look into opportunities to work with national and local governments in encouraging effective policies and improved implementation…[She added that] companies should see the recent developments “as an opportunity to play an important role in finally putting an end to modern slavery.”…[refers to Carrefour, Tesco, Walmart]

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30 June 2014

Mahachai Fishing Boat Association rejects media reports & says they don’t use trafficked workers

Author: Prom Vikitsreth, Bangkok Post (Thailand)

"Fishermen deny ‘slavery lies’ Western media has facts wrong, they say", 30 June 2014

Fishing boat operators are rejecting Western claims the industry relies on forced labour, saying their own boats are clean and should serve as an example to others. A trawler owner speaking on behalf of other fishing-boat operators who were members of the Mahachai Fishing Boat Association, said none of them used labourers who were victims of human trafficking on board their vessels…The boat owner, who asked not to be named, said there were several categories of what could be termed “fishing vessels” and they should not all be labelled bad when only a few broke the law…

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30 June 2014

Thai Fishery Producers Coalition claims industry has made efforts to eliminate forced & child labour; calls for upgrade in US report

Author: Petchanet Pratruangkrai, Nation (Thailand)

"Producers vow to clean up act", 30 June 2014

MEMBERS of the Thai Fishery Producers Coalition made a joint commitment in April to completely eliminate child and forced labour from their 'upstream' supply chains to 'downstream' manufacturers within two years. That was before the US downgraded Thailand to the lowest level of Tier 3 in its 2014 Trafficking in Persons report (TIP)…Thailand should be upgraded in the TIP report soon…[Poj Aramwattananont, chairman of the Thai Fishery Producers Coalition] claimed, as the industry has made serious efforts to eliminate forced and child labour for many years. All coalition members has vowed to rid child and forced labour from their facilities and pre-production process by September. In one year, they will draw up a plan to provide better facilities for workers, such as accommodation. In 2 years, they will commit to eliminate child and forced labour in their supply chain…

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30 June 2014

UK govt. orders British Retail Consortium to produce new transparency guidance after investigation finds slavery in prawns supply chain

Author: Rebecca Smithers & Rowena Mason, Guardian (UK)


"Ministers warn UK retailers to do more on human rights and ethical products", 25 June 2014

Retailers must do more to stamp out human rights abuses by their suppliers after a Guardian investigation found prawns sold in the UK were produced with the help of slaves, ministers are warning. Jenny Willott, the consumer affairs minister, said retailers must have a policy on sourcing ethical products, as ignoring the consumers' concerns about forced labour and dangerous working conditions could risk putting them out of business...Willott ordered the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to produce new guidance on urgent steps its members must take to improve transparency about human rights abuses linked to food, drink, clothing and other products. Karen Bradley, Home Office minister for modern slavery, also called on firms to stop working with suppliers with links to forced labour, saying they have a "social responsibility to ensure that those that they do business with are not involved in the exploitation of others"...Foreign Office minister Lady Warsi said the coalition will look to raise concerns with Thailand about the use of slaves to produce prawns sold in UK stores. 

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20 June 2014

US demotes Thailand, Qatar, Malaysia in Trafficking in Persons report – cites modern-day slavery among migrant workers

Author: Katie Hodal, Annie Kelly & Dan Roberts, Guardian (UK)

"US demotes Thailand and Qatar for abysmal human trafficking records", 20 June 2014

The US has signalled its mounting concern over modern-day slavery in Thailand and Qatar after it downgraded both countries on its human trafficking watchlist following revelations of appalling maltreatment of migrant workers. Thailand was relegated to the lowest rank in the state department's Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report – meaning it is now considered no better than North Korea, Iran or Saudi Arabia in the way it treats workers and protects them from abuse. Qatar was demoted to a watchlist one rung above, and will join Thailand if it doesn't improve its record in the coming years. Malaysia was also downgraded... The report said that…"many" of [Qatar’s] 1.2 million migrant workers faced conditions of modern slavery when they arrived to work there…

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12 June 2014

Carrefour suspends prawn orders from CP Foods

Author: Fish Information & Services

Carrefour has decided to suspend its direct or indirect purchases from Charoen Pokphand Foods (CP Foods) due to reports of likely connections with slave labour. The retailer explained this is a precautionary measure taken "until the issue is clarified." The French retailer's decision is based on journalistic research carried out by The Guardian newspaper, which showed that there was slave labour in the prawn supply chain in Thailand. Carrefour sources explained that, as it has done regularly, a social audit of the company's processing plant was carried out in July 2013, and it had revealed nothing abnormal at that time... Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) welcomed the announcement by the retail giant and informed that as a further step Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt would be returning all remaining stocks of CP Foods products... [Environmental Justice Foundation's] Executive Director considers this decision should urge all companies selling Thai seafood to take similar action and carry out rigorous, independent audits of their entire supply chain, no matter who their suppliers are...Besides, he encouraged consumers to take the opportunity to demand their retailers take strong and meaningful action to eradicate slavery from their supply chains.

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10 June 2014

Trafficked into slavery on Thai trawlers to catch food for prawns

Author: Kate Hodal & Chris Kelly, Guardian

The Thai fishing industry is built on slavery, with men often beaten, tortured and sometimes killed - all to catch 'trash fish' to feed the cheap farmed prawns sold in the west…[M]any Thai officials not only turn a blind eye to abuse…they are often complicit in it, from local police through to high-ranking politicians and members of the judiciary – meaning that slaves often have nowhere to turn when they have the opportunity to run…CP said in a statement that it believed the right thing was to use its commercial weight to try to influence the Thai government to act rather than walk away from the Thai fishing industry, although it is putting in place plans to use alternative proteins in its feed so that it can eliminate Thai fishmeal by 2021 if necessary…The Guardian identified several of its customers and traced CP prawns to all of the top four global retailers – Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco – and to other supermarkets including Morrisons, the Co-operative, Aldi, and Iceland. We asked those named in our investigation to comment on our finding of slavery in their supply chains…

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23 April 2014

'It is overwhelmingly the case that fish exports from Thailand involve trafficked labour' – video

Author: Holly Young & Arun Marsh, Guardian

We caught up with professor John Ruggie…to discuss slavery, supply chains and governance failures…While the sector is on an "upwards learning slope", the example of the Thai fishing industry demonstrates the extent to which businesses remain ignorant of the full extent of slavery in their supply chains. He also warns that there are limits to what business can, and should, be doing. Campaigners need to learn to "partner and pressure" with big business, and ultimately governments need to address their governance failures. And finally, consumers should be asking themselves "whether they want their child to wear a shirt made by another child".

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