Thailand continues making strides for a clean fishing sector

Thailand has taken two major steps in its continuing campaign to build a clean fishing sector free from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and labor abuse, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last week.

In southern Rayong province, Thailand’s Minister of Labor and his counterpart from Myanmar attended the opening of a center to register newly arrived migrant workers from Myanmar so that they can work in Thailand’s fishing industry legally, under fair conditions and with their rights protected.

At the Ranong Post-Arrival and Reintegration Center for Migrant Workers, newly arrived laborers from Thailand’s Western neighbor can apply for a Thai visa, registration, electronic work permit, and training courses on working in the Thai fishing sector including a briefing on their rights and welfare.

The center processed a total of 67 migrant workers on the opening day. Thai employers need thousands more and they are expected to come from Myanmar, Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The Thai government said it hopes to legally recruit 42,000 under memoranda of understanding with the three other governments.

The Thai government has campaigned to ensure that migrant workers wishing to work in Thailand are recruited through legal channels and possess legal work permits. The government has passed new laws with strict penalties and punishment for employers who hire workers illegally.

In recent years, Thailand’s reputation suffered from allegations of human trafficking, forced labor and labor abuse in the fishing industry. The government has worked hard, however, to solve the problems. It has pursued and prosecuted transnational criminal syndicates involved in human trafficking and passed new laws and regulations to protect workers and others who may be victims of trafficking. The government has implemented a wide-ranging program of reforms and enforcement to eliminate the problem.

Recently, Deputy Prime Minister Chatchai Sarikulya chaired the inaugural meeting of the National Committee on Promoting the IUU-Free Thailand, a body to coordinate and oversee efforts already underway my multiple agencies, and to develop new policies and measures to plug any gaps found.

The committee will be “an important mechanism to drive Thailand’s fisheries sector to be free from IUU,’’ the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Thailand has been working diligently on catch traceability systems to ensure that fish arriving in Thai ports, either on Thai or foreign vessels, can be traced and verified so that they were not the result of IUU fishing.  The system has also been set up to monitor catches arriving by road, containers, and air.

The goal is to guarantee that the entire supply chain of the Thai seafood industry is free from IUU fishing products.