Thailand ratifies Work in Fishing Convention; stakeholders seek effective implementation

Thailand is the first Asian country to ratify ILO Work in Fishing Convention No. 188. Among other things, the convention addresses major issues affecting workers on board fishing vessels, such as occupational safety and health, rest periods, written contracts, and social security protection.

Aside from following the progress and impact of this ratification, this story also includes reports and comments from various stakeholders.

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Article
6 February 2019

Cambodia: Human rights and labour rights groups urge Cambodian fishermen to be cautious about working in the Thai fishing industry

Author: Kimseng Men, VOA Khmer

"Activists Caution Cambodian Fishermen on Thai Trawlers", 5 February 2019

Human rights and labor activists have urged Cambodian workers on Thai trawlers to be cautious amid concerns that the lifting of an EU warning on the Thai fishing industry for compliance following scandals over slavery could have a negative impact on their safety.

… the EU issued a “yellow card” warning to the industry due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, but lifted the warning ...

Thailand has “successfully addressed” its legal framework in line with international law and improved its monitoring and surveillance system, the EU said…

“Despite all of this, it doesn’t mean that they [Cambodian fishermen] are 100 percent safe,” said Dy Thehoya, program director of labor rights group Central…

"While not part of the bilateral dialogue on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the commission and the European External Action Service have addressed with Thai authorities the serious human rights abuses and forced labor in the fishing industry,” said EU Commissioner for fisheries Karmenu Vella. “Thailand … announced the ratification of the International Labour Organisation's convention No.188 on Work in Fishing, ...."

More than 1 million Cambodians are reported to migrate to Thailand each year, working in factories, plantations, and in the fishing industry…

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that there are still cases of forced labor, human trafficking, and injury on fishing boats, without compensation…

The Cambodian government has said it has done its part to protect migrant workers overseas by issuing a policy, …, and has an agreement of cooperation with Thai authorities.

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Article
2 February 2019

Thailand: Environmental Justice Foundation identifies areas of improvement and lauds ratification of Work in Fishing Convention

Author: Environmental Justice Foundation

"Thailand is first Asian country to ratifiy international standards for work in fishing," 31 January 2019

...Thailand became the first country in Asia to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention, which sets basic decent standards for work in the fishing industry. This shows important commitment and leadership for the region. But there are still improvements to be made, and a recent proposition that 16-year-olds be allowed to work on vessels may lead to further abuse.

Thailand has made strides forward in eradicating the illegal fishing and human rights abuse ...the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) can attest. The country’s monitoring, surveillance, and enforcement capabilities have shown good progress, including innovative efforts such as the use of covert patrol vessels to catch vessels fishing illegally in Thai waters...

However, EJF has also found lingering shortcomings that prevent Thailand’s fishing industry from becoming truly ethical and sustainable...[I]nspections are not always rigorous, and EJF has identified cases of captains signing on behalf of crew to confirm they were given breaks, and migrant crews’ payment documents and ATM cards being held by the vessel owner on shore.

The protective measures are good in theory, but enforcement would be difficult, if not impossible, says EJF. “Thailand is to be applauded for taking the significant step of ratifying C188,” says EJF’s Executive Director Steve Trent...

EJF also points to the fact even industry representatives have reservations. Mongkol Sukcharoenkana, chairman of the National Fishing Association of Thailand – the main body representing the interests of commercial vessel owners in Thailand, was quoted this week as saying that hiring under 18s would be a step backwards despite being "technically" allowed within the C188 framework.

 

Article
2 February 2019

UN urges Asian countries to follow Thailand on fishing pledge

Author: Reuters, The Straits Times

31 January 2019

Asian countries have been urged to sign up to international standards on working conditions in the fishing industry after Thailand became the first in the region to make such a pledge.

...Thailand...ratified the International Labour Organisation's Work in Fishing Convention, which sets out binding rules and standards for conditions on fishing vessels.

"Thailand is setting an excellent example for the region... I look forward to other Asian countries soon following suit,"the director-general of the United Nations agency, Mr Guy Ryder, said in a statement.

...The ILO convention ratified by Thailand includes requirements relating to occupational safety and health, medical care at sea and ashore, rest periods, written work agreements and social security protection.

It aims to ensure that fishing vessels provide decent living conditions for workers on board.

Ratifying the convention showed the government's strong political will to ensure that working conditions in its domestic fishing industry meet ILO standards, Thai Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo said in a statement.

It underlines Thailand's full commitment to raising the standards of labour protection for both Thai and migrant workers and eliminating forced labour, he added.

Human rights groups welcomed Thailand's move, but urged policymakers to entrench the ILO convention in domestic law....

 

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Article
1 February 2019

Cambodia: Cambodian fishermen are to be protected with Thailand's ratification of ILO's Work in Fishing Convention

Author: Savi Khorn, The Phnom Penh Post

"Kingdom’s fishermen protected as Thais ratify ILO convention", 1 February 2019

The Thai government has committed to ensuring acceptable living and working conditions for those in the fishing industry after it ratified the International Labour Organisation’s … Work in Fishing Convention,...

The Work in Fishing Convention sets out binding requirements relating to work on board fishing vessels, including occupational health and safety, medical care at sea and ashore, guaranteed rest periods, written work agreements and social security protection…

Thai Minister of Labour Adul Sangsingkeo said his government’s ratification of the convention reflected its commitment to ensuring working conditions in its domestic fishing industry met ILO standards…

Mom Sokcha, the programme director for rights group Legal Aid of Cambodia, told … that the ratification of the Work in Fishing Convention was just the beginning of the Thai government’s efforts to protect those working in the industry.

“Even after the EU gave a yellow card to Thailand [over workers’ rights], we see that fishing workers still face problems, such as salary cuts or withheld pay, exploitation Thailand should focus on remedying,” he said…

Sokcha said that according to informal data, around 20,000 to 30,000 Cambodians work in the Thai fishing industry.

Dy The Hoya, programme officer at labour rights group Central, said Thailand had faced pressure from the EU and so recently its government created an office to provide legal protection for fishing workers.

“The EU [warned Thailand] that imposing [trade] penalties would cost the loss of about 40 per cent of seafood exports, so Thailand [passed] its Law on Fishing Industry."…

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Article
30 January 2019

Thailand: 1st Asian country to ratify ILO Work in Fishing Convention

Author: International Labour Organization

"Thailand ratifies Work in Fishing Convention", 30 January 2019

Thailand has become the first country in Asia to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No.188) , which protects the living and working conditions of fishers on board vessels.

The Work in Fishing Convention sets out binding requirements relating to work on board fishing vessels, including occupational safety and health, medical care at sea and ashore, rest periods, written work agreements, and social security protection. It also aims to ensure that fishing vessels provide decent living conditions for fishers on board...

“The Royal Thai Government’s ratification of the Convention reflects its strong political will to ensure that the working conditions in its domestic fishing industry meet ILO standards. It underlines Thailand’s full commitment to raising the standards of labour protection for both Thai and migrant workers and eliminating forced labour, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals ,” said Thai Labour Minister...

It will come into force in Thailand 30 January 2020, a year after ratification.

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Article
30 December 2018

Thailand will become first Asian nation to ratify ILO's Convention on Work in Fishing

Author: Peter Janssen, Asia Times

"Thai junta takes the stench off troubled fisheries industry", 18 December 2018

If all goes according to plan, Thailand will become the first Asian nation to ratify the International Labor Organization's Convention on Work in Fishing ahead of general elections....

...The ratification will mark the culmination of four years of tackling endemic problems in the nation's fisheries sector, an industry plagued for years by widespread human rights abuses, trafficking in migrant laborers and unsustainable practices that have contributed to the depletion of the region's fish stock.

...[T]here are signs that Thai fisheries could be a hot topic on the campaign trail....

...Slave-like conditions endured by migrant laborers aboard Thai fishing vessels were exposed in investigative reports....

...To its credit, Prayut's military regime responded to the downgrades fairly quickly.

Although still yellow carded by the EU, Thailand moved up from Tier 3 to Tier 2 in the 2018 TIP report. What is needed now is for other Southeast Asian countries to follow Thailand's lead, industry observers say.

"Thailand is in the lead with the ratification and with establishing a system of inspectors," said the ILO's Judd. "But after some point it becomes a comparative disadvantage if Thailand is making changes to the industry to raise standards but the competition isn't."

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Article
29 November 2018

Thailand set to ratify ILO Work in Fishing Convention

Author: Penchan Charoensuthipan, Bangkok Post

"Thailand first in Asia to ratify fishing pact", 30 November 2018

Thailand will become the first country in Asia to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention, also known as C188, to ensure better working conditions for fishermen.

The ratification was confirmed on Thursday... although the news was met with opposition from fisheries groups across the country, who fear the agreement will increase their financial burden. Addressing their concerns, Pol Gen Adul said the C188, which contains 14 key requirements, will apply only to large fishing vessels weighing at least 30 gross tonnes...

Thailand has struggled to deal with a shortage of fishermen following its stringent measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as demanded by the European Union, which gave the kingdom a "yellow card"... in 2015. 

The ratification of the C188 will improve the image of Thai fisheries in the eyes of the international community, which will consequently benefit businesses in the long run...

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Article
20 August 2018

Thailand: 28 NGOs call on Thai Govt. to reject attempts by the Natl. Fishing Association to derail ratification of ILO Convention No. 188, the Work in Fishing Convention

Author: Anti-Slavery Intl., Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, CENTRAL, Environmental Justice Foundation, Human Rights and Development Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and others

"Joint civil society statement concerning ratification of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188)"

...We respectfully urge the Royal Thai Government and the Ministry of Labor to pursue a robust and ambitious approach to ensure ratification of C188 before the end of 2018.  Efforts to reject the C188 by the National Fishing Association of Thailand (NFAT) are sadly unsurprising given NFAT’s reneging on its previous promises to cooperate with the Royal Thai Government to eliminate human and labor rights abuses in the fishing industry. Specifically, we call on the Royal Thai Government to ensure the key provisions of the Convention are included in any final legislation that the Royal Thai Government adopts. 

We strongly recommend that protections be preserved that provide for decent working and living conditions for the fishers onboard vessels and social security protections. These provisions are vital in preventing workers from being exploited by unscrupulous employers who pay sub-minimum wages, refuse to ensure overtime is voluntary and compensated, and engage in debt bondage and forced labor. Ensuring fishers are included fully in the social security system is critical to protect them if they suffer an occupational accident or an illness. Furthermore, including these provisions will grant workers much needed statutory social security benefits. Other core principles that need to be maintained in the legislation include ensuring a minimum age for fishers, payment of minimum wages, and enforcing limits on working hours.  Current Thai labor law already restricts children under age 18 from working in dirty and dangerous work, in line with ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, which Thailand has ratified. NFAT’s continuing demand for exemptions to the child labor laws in the abusive Thai fishing industry demonstrates shocking disregard for the safety of children. The Royal Thai Government should defend its principled stance and reject any proposals to allow 16-year-olds to work on fishing vessels under any circumstances...

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