Thailand shows no improvement in the fight against human trafficking — BenarNews
Thailand has made no progress over the past year in its efforts to combat human trafficking, especially migrant workers, a global seafood industry watchdog said in a statement. report released Thursday.
Last year, the US State Department downgraded Thailand in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) from Tier 2 to the Tier 2 Watch List – just one notch above the lowest rank. low, Tier 3 – because the government “has not demonstrated increased overall efforts…even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its counter-trafficking capacity.
The Seafood Working Group (SWG), which published Thursday’s reportsaid Thailand had been “appropriately downgraded in 2021” and recommended that the country also remain on the Tier 2 Watch List in 2022. The group is a coalition of Thai and international organizations working to end labor exploitation in the global seafood industry.
“Our research shows that many determinants of downgrading have not changed,” the report says, adding that there is insufficient “evidence of increased efforts to address serious forms of human trafficking by compared to the previous year”, in particular with regard to labor trafficking.
The SWG’s report is based on the findings of its submission to the State Department’s 2022 TIP report.
Thailand “has not increased its efforts to address the problem of forced labor among migrant workers commensurate with the scale of the problem,” the group said.
He also alleged that the government had “failed to carry out regular and effective labor inspections of fishing vessels and seafood processing plants”.
Thai government officials did not immediately respond to BenarNews’ request for comment.
Better than before, but not enough
But according to a Thai fishing industry executive, the situation has improved, although some problems remain and authorities are being lax in trying to address them. He criticized the SWG report, saying US rules cannot be enforced in Thailand.
“The problem of forced labor in Thailand’s seafood industry is not as bad as it used to be due to the strict conditions,” said Mongkol Sukcharoenkana, president of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand.
The new rules “have made recruiting migrant workers almost impossible,” he told BenarNews on Thursday, referring to provisions introduced over the past seven to eight years.
Mongkol said the punishment for flouting the rules was “severe”. In fact, he said they have been devastating to local industry. Being on the US watch list has also hurt the industry, he said.
“I think if the United States only listens to NGOs, it will downgrade Thailand to Tier 3,” he said.
“I want the Thai government to see this problem and find solutions for people in the seafood industry, instead of just letting NGOs and the US government take the lead,” Mongkol said.
The pandemic has exacerbated migrant labor issues
Meanwhile, government policies against COVID-19 have “increased the vulnerability of migrant workers to labor trafficking and exploitation, including by imposing lockdowns on migrant communities,” SWG said in its report.
“These policies deprived migrant workers of their basic needs, led to greater dependence on brokers and increased their financial debt,” he said, adding that workers were excluded from social programs. of the government.
In June 2021, during the Delta-variant-fueled pandemic wave, some 80,000 migrant construction workers were quarantined in Thailand, according to a case study by SWG. Densely populated camps were closed without government support, and workers were not allowed to leave, even for food or other necessities.
The government has also imposed “extreme quarantine policies for fishermen, forcing many of them to stay on fishing vessels to prevent the spread of COVID-19″, he said.
In one case study, SWG said 24 workers, including 19 Burmese, “were not allowed to return ashore…for six months”. Instead, workers were required to work every day without rest – some despite injuries.
“The government has not taken sufficient steps to systematically address labor abuses and indicators of forced labor in the fishing and seafood processing sectors, such as withholding identity documents , abusive working and living conditions, intimidation and threats, physical violence, excessive overtime, and wage theft,” the report states.
Kunnawut Boonreak contributed to this report from Chiang Mai, Thailand.