By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Fishery body chief says move may be driven by protectionism
SONGKHLA Fishery Association president Praporn Ekuru said the issuing of a yellow card for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices and the threat to ban Thai fishery exports could have been driven by the European Union’s economic protectionism or its desire to see the military regime of General Prayut Chan-o-cha return the country to democracy.
Praporn also criticised the six-month deadline given to Thailand to improve itself as being unreasonable.
“It could be protectionism. They should not have set such a deadline. I am also worried that it may also have to do with the [military government’s roadmap to return democracy] and pressuring of the military,” said Praporn. “What agenda do they have?”
The Songkhla Fishery Association president, who is also a former MP of the Democrat Party, said he had no confidence that Thailand would be able to meet the deadline for adjustment and improvement, despite the fact that the Kingdom had been trying to deal with the issues for years now.
“Thailand should seek alternative markets,” he concluded, adding the Middle East seemed a logical alternative market and Thailand’s fishery exports to the region were still low.
Praporn warned that even if Thailand succeeded in improving its fishery standards, it could mean a 20 to 30 per cent rise in the cost of marine produce and could in effect make Thail fisheries not competitive enough. It could even reduce the level of profits.
Another former Democrat MP and current chief executive of Songkhla Province Administrative Organisation, Niphon Bunyamanee who was once in the trawler business, held views similar to Praporn’s.
“If they don’t directly resort to protectionism, they would use regulations. Is there a political motivation driving it?
“If you ask whether the EU standards are good or not, the answer is yes, they are good. But is this a new form of sanctions [against the military regime]?” he said.
Niphon added that he might be right or wrong regarding the use of a yellow card and a threat to pressure the military regime of General Prayut and the National Council for Peace and Order to stick with the timeframe for returning to democracy.
“It can be read that the measure is applied to pressure the Thai government [on democracy]. One can see it that way.”
Niphon added that six months is simply too short a time.
“They’re using this time-frame to pressure us,” Niphon concluded.
“There’re just far too many |people involved in the industry |and more time for adjustment should have been provided.”
Niphon acknowledged that the Kingdom must improve its fishery industry and bring it up to international standards, but it should not have taken the EU to tell it what to do.
“It reflects our irresponsibility. I’m not confident that we can meet the deadline unless we put up a show [to deceive].”
Niphon predicted that the basic costs of marine produce would go up as much as 30 to 40 per cent if the standards required by the EU were to be truly met.
“It will become more expensive. Perhaps we have to think about exporting other goods instead.”
In related news, 26 Port In-Port Out Controlling (PIPO) centres in 22 coastal provinces were launched yesterday in a bid to tackle the IUU fishing and related human trafficking crimes.
The centres will oversee fishing trawlers of over 30 gross tonnes.
So far, 10 trawlers out of 17 such vessels in Krabi province have registered with its provincial centre.
In Satun where there were 194 such big trawlers covering 6,500 crewmembers, provincial governor Dejrat Simsiri, vowed to severely punish officials involved in human trafficking. He was presiding over the opening of two such centres in this southern province.
He affirmed that meetings on the matter and inspections were organised regularly.