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Thailand Makes Little Progress on Tackling Labour Abuses in Fishing Industry

17 February 2015

THAILAND - The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is recommending that Thailand remains on Tier 3 in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report following insufficient action to eliminate human trafficking in the fishing industry.

EJF said this will send a clear signal to the Thai Government that further progress and substantive efforts are required to ensure removal from the Tier 3 ranking which places it alongside countries such as North Korea and Iran.

In a new briefing, Broken Promises: Why Thailand should stay on Tier 3 in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, EJF shares a selection of reported cases of trafficking, forced and bonded labour on Thai fishing vessels between March 2014 and February 2015.

EJF finds that:

  •  Thailand has failed to address the unregulated industry of labour brokers, which perpetuates trafficking and abuse in the fishing sector.

  •  Insubstantial progress has been made in identifying victims of trafficking, forced and bonded labour aboard fishing vessels.

  •  The Royal Thai Government has failed to enforce existing laws and regulations in an unbiased and rigorous manner and has failed to end extensive corruption and the involvement of state officials in human trafficking.

  •  There has been no adoption of a victim-centred approach to protecting those who have escaped or been rescued from modern-day slavery.

Since 2013, EJF’s investigations in Thailand have consistently found that the Thai Government’s anti-trafficking efforts have been characterised by failure to improve victim identification, shockingly inadequate victim protection and support, weak enforcement and endemic corruption.

Since 2014, trafficking victims have reported abuse, even in Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) shelters designated to offer protection to victims.

Reports of assault, threats at gunpoint and beatings by shelter staff leading to severe injuries, have been recorded (EJF interviews with trafficking victims and Myanmar government officials, 2014).

Corruption still seriously undermines Thailand's efforts to combat trafficking, while Thailand's Prime Minister and other senior Ministers have publicly acknowledged the involvement of state officials in trafficking into the fishing industry.

On 30 January 2015 Mr Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Minister of Thailand’s Foreign Affairs, gave a press conference on Thailand’s own Trafficking in Persons 2015 Country Report.

The report summary claims that substantial progress has been made, especially regarding anti-trafficking legislation, inspections of fishing vessels and the registration of migrant workers. The full report has not however been made available or been subject to independent scrutiny.

EJF’s review of the Thai Government’s actions in the last year concludes that the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking have not been met, and EJF strongly recommends that Thailand remains on Tier 3 in the 2015 TIP Report, as a clear signal to the Thai Government that a substantive programme of actions and series of reforms must be implemented.

Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF, said: "The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is a powerful tool to engage governments and industry on the issue of human trafficking. It offers insight into the nature and scope of human trafficking around the world and global anti-trafficking efforts. The report tracks improvement, with countries on Tier 1 still having to display appreciable progress in combating trafficking every year to maintain their place.

"After four years on the Tier 2 Watch List and one year on Tier 3, global leadership from the US Government and a wealth of evidence and advice from NGOs, the Royal Thai Government is still failing to take the action needed to prevent trafficking and human rights abuses in the fishing industry. 

"Nothing that we have seen or heard in the last year indicates that Thailand has taken meaningful action to address the root causes of trafficking and abuse. The Thai Government must take clear, significant and sustained steps to prevent and suppress human trafficking in the fishing industry.”

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Further Reading

You can view the full Broken Promises report by clicking here.

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