Ministry says record good on trafficking
The Labour Ministry has defended its handling of human trafficking and forced labour cases in the fisheries industry following a report that more than a third of migrant fishermen in Thailand have been clear victims of trafficking in the last five years.
According to anti-trafficking group International Justice Mission (IJM), its survey of 260 fishermen from Myanmar and Cambodia showed 38% were "clearly" trafficked and another 49% were possibly trafficked. Only 13% reported fair labour conditions at sea and no exploitative recruitment.
The report, published last Thursday by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, also said three-quarters of migrant labourers on Thai fishing vessels have been working in debt bondage.
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Field researchers surveyed the 260 fishermen in 20 Thai localities last year, collecting information on fishing jobs they had held in the previous five years.
Sumeth Mahosot, chief of the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, said authorities have taken various steps in dealing with slavery and trafficking on fishing boats.
He said trawlers are required to comply with the regulations governing the employment of fishing crews and fishing operations and they are subject to inspections by labour, fisheries and marine officials.
Legal action has been taken promptly against operators suspected of involvement in human trafficking or of violating labour protection laws, he said.
According to Mr Sumeth, 956 inspections were conducted last year on 891 fishing trawlers. These turned up 18 violators and just one case where an underage worker was hired, he said.
A probe into the fishing logs and other records of 40,000 fishing crew found irregularities with around 4,000 and action has been taken against their employers, he added.
Mr Sumeth said the Labour Ministry has revised the labour protection law to increase penalties against people who use underage labourers on their boats.
They are liable to a fine of 400,000 to 800,000 baht for each underage worker and/or a two-year jail term, he said.
A special task force has been set up to work with NGOs and gather information about forced labour, trafficking and the use of violence on fishing boats, he added. He said the US has recognised Thailand's "significant advances" in this field.