Fishing sector still 'unclean'
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Fishing sector still 'unclean'

Once again, the Prayut Chan-o-cha government has affirmed its commitment to combatting human trafficking and slave labour.

During a meeting with officials tackling human trafficking, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday ordered the team to provide more explanations to the US government in a last-ditch effort to improve the country's ranking in the TIP report in which Thailand was most recently stuck in Tier 2 -- meaning the country had failed to comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) 2000. The report is due to be released anytime now.

It's also reported that Gen Prawit, who has steered the government's effort to solve the problem, was alerted that reports from the Seafood Working Group contained different information from that held by some state agencies.

During the meeting, the deputy prime minister urged closer coordination between the government agencies and activists.

Gen Prawit's stance conforms with a pledge he made last month to curb illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing to boost Thailand's fishing sustainability.

At a recent meeting with the National Committee on Fisheries Policy, Gen Prawit insisted the sector must keep "clean".

It's ironic that a few weeks after his instruction, news reports emerged about the plight of Myanmar workers who have had to fight for their wages from employers in Ranong province.

According to the Fishers Rights Network (FRN), complaints have emerged about wage theft.

In addition to efforts to monitor payments, limit wage theft, and ensure employers are following minimum wage provisions, the law requires employers to make monthly electronic payments (through a bank account).

But in reality, almost all migrant fishers tell the network that their captain or vessel owner maintains control of their bank book, ATM card, PIN number, and controls all their bank transactions. Many claimed vessel owners paid only some of what was due.

There is criticism that the government which ratified the International Labour Organisation's Work in Fishing Convention (C188) in 2019, still ignores calls for enforcement of certain convention provisions, particularly those involved with the protection of freedom of association and collective bargaining for all workers, such as the formation of a workers' union, as accorded by ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

Although the government has made progress in tackling human trafficking, which prompted Europe to lift its yellow card warning in 2017, there are still grey areas that need serious attention from state agencies.

Back in 2019, there were cases of Thai and Cambodian crew working on fishing vessels operated by foreign nominees that roamed the seas off Somalia.

Those trawlers were found to have switched off their tracking systems, an act that puts them at risk being classified as committing illegal fishing.

Such suspected illegality means their catches were banned and the crew struggled with overdue payments. Finally, the crew were rescued and sent back to Thailand.

Some label such blatant cases as a hidden form of human trafficking and this problem still tarnishes the country's fishing record.

Fine-tuning as instructed by Gen Prawit is not enough. He and the government must equip state agencies with legal mechanisms and sufficient knowledge so they are able to stamp out trafficking in whatever form.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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