Prime Minister vows tough actions against labor abuses
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha vowed to mete out punishment to anyone involved in trafficking and abusing migrant workers and insisted that his government’s policy against trafficking and abuse is bringing positive results.
“We are dealing with the issue. Arrests are under way,” Prime Minister Prayut said in response to a report by The Associated Press that found migrant workers subjected to abuse at a medium-sized shrimp peeling facility in a province near Bangkok.
“We are determined to ensure that the country’s seafood supply chain is free of human trafficking and forced labor,” the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington D.C. said. “As indicated in the [AP] report, arrests have already been made and victims are being cared for in a government shelter.”
In fact, a multidisciplinary government team inspected the shrimp-peeling shed highlighted in the AP story on November 9. Victims of trafficking were rescued and given shelter by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, which is providing them with additional assistance and services. As human trafficking victims, they are not prosecuted under the Thai immigration law.
Thai authorities have become more responsive to address shortfalls in protecting workers and better trained to handle trafficking and labor abuse cases. ILO experts have worked with Thai labor inspectors to improve their capacity to identify trafficking victims and abuse.
The Thai private sector is also responding to the problem. The Thai Frozen Foods Association announced Monday that all of its member companies have agreed to stop using third-party facilities and suppliers at the end of December and move these operations in-house, giving them the ability to monitor and prevent any labor abuse.
U.S.-based Progressive Grocer magazine wrote, while the situation in Thailand is in the spotlight at the moment, the problem “is the same in many other countries, from the Middle East to Europe, and even in some parts of the U.S.”
Thailand has, nonetheless, been showing resolve in tackling the problem. Authorities are stepping up efforts to take legal action against those involved in IUU fishing and trafficking in seafood industry and become more stringent in issuing factory licenses and enforcing standards for working conditions. The Employment Department and the Labor Protection and Welfare Department are working to ensure the well-being and welfare of all workers, whether they are Thai or migrants.
Tougher enforcement is just one part of the government’s comprehensive campaign to end trafficking and abuse, especially in the fishing and seafood industries. Laws have been amended and strengthened, and new oversight and command structures created.
The government has registered and regularized over one million foreign migrants working in the Kingdom in an effort to bring them out of the shadows and the grips of traffickers and abusive employers. Workers who register are informed of their rights. A second round of registrations is now underway as focus is on those remain undocumented.
Thailand has also taken a leading role and organized two regional meetings on the problems of irregular migration in the Indian Ocean in an effort to encourage cooperation and solve root causes of the problems.
Trafficking is a complex problem, and the Prayut government admits that gaps and shortfalls still exist. Nonetheless, Thailand is determined to sustain its efforts until trafficking and labor abuse is for all intents and purposes eliminated in the Kingdom.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org