By JITRAPORN SENWONG
THE EUROPEAN Union is threatening to issue a “red card” to Thai seafood exports if the country fails to seriously fight against labour abuses in the fisheries sector.
“EU teams will conduct inspections in Thailand next month,” Vice Admiral Jumpol Lumpiganon, spokesman for the Command Centre for Combating Illegal Fishing, said yesterday. The EU had set up 25 teams to check 101 locations, he said, where work was reportedly driven by illegal labour.
Jumpol expressed concern that if the EU issued a ban the fisheries sector would be hard hit. He said that after hearing about the EU inspection in January, “We have launched a serious crackdown on illegal labour since November 2.”
He lamented that some media outlets had inaccurately portrayed Thailand as exploiting modern-day slaves as well as child labourers. “It’s so unfair,” he said.
In regard to children seen peeling shrimp in the seafood industry, Jumpol explained that it was common in Thai culture for some children to work to earn extra cash for their families.
“It’s a culture, as much as the fact that parents in Europe usually send their children to KFC and McDonalds outlets to train them about work,” he said.
Jumpol said Thai media outlets needed to explain Thai culture to the world. However, he said the use of child workers at factories was prohibited and the offending factories would face legal action.
Relevant authorities had been working to tackle labour problems, he said, as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
In April this year, the EU slapped Thailand with a “yellow card” over IUU violations.
In a bid to counter this, Thailand has taken several measures this year. One is the introduction of the Fisheries Royal Ordinance, which has drawn strong opposition from fishermen.
Yesterday, representatives of fishermen in 22 seaside provinces urged the government to immediately review the new legislation.
They said that if Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha did not heed their demand within one month, they would submit a petition to the United Nations to make it clear to the world that local fishermen in Thailand are not happy with efforts to please the EU at their expense.
In a related development, three fishing trawlers were stopped off Chon Buri province on Monday night for providing false information to the Port In Port Out (PIPO) centres in Samut Prakan and Samut Songkhram provinces.
PIPO centres are now in place in many provinces across Thailand to curb IUU.
“We are working hard to combat IUU in the hope of seeing an end to the EU threat against Thai seafood exports,” Vice Admiral Rangsarit Sattayanukool said in his capacity as commander of the First Naval Area Command.