(Bangkok, Thailand)—The Government of Thailand announced on January 16 that it would scrap a proposed project to recruit prisoners to work on Thai fishing boats. The announcement came after Fortify Rights and 44 other labor and human rights groups raised concerns about the project in a letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on January 14.
Fortify Rights and the international coalition of organizations welcome the Thai government’s decision and its stated intention to address human trafficking. We hope this marks a shift by the government to operate in a truly consultative manner with workers, employers, unions, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders to solve the fishing industry’s serious and ongoing human trafficking problem as well as effectively implement labor protections in Thailand’s fishing fleets.
Thailand still has much work to do to improve the treatment of workers and working conditions in the fishing industry, Fortify Rights said.
Recent reports on Thailand’s fishing industry have exposed significant abuse and exploitation of workers as well as inhumane poor working conditions. Ninety percent of workers within Thailand’s fishing industry are migrants—a majority of whom lack legal status and access to basic labor protections. Without proper regulation and oversight, the fishing industry in Thailand provides an environment ripe for human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, physical abuse including killings, and exploitation of workers.
While it is positive that the Thai government avoided exacerbating abuses in the fishing industry through implementing a scheme to recruit prisoners onto Thai fishing vessels, much more needs to be done to bring an end to ongoing and long-standing abuses. Fortify Rights encourages Thailand to implement legal reforms that effectively combat human trafficking, protect workers, and improve working conditions within the fishing industry.