By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM,
Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation director Sompong Srakaew said yesterday that even though human trafficking had largely been suppressed in Thailand, the authorities still have to intensify their operations against forced labour and protect workers’ rights to eradicate these crimes.
His remarks came after Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report, “Hidden Chains: Forced Labour and Rights Abuses in Thailand’s Fishing Industry”, on Tuesday.
In the report, HRW suggested that Thai authorities improve laws, strengthen measures and operations against violations of workers’ rights, and enforce proactive policies to protect the rights of migrant workers.
Sompong said he had noticed positive progress on efforts to tackle human trafficking in the Kingdom due to strict measures by the authorities. As a result, there had been no recent cases reported to his organisation that could be regarded as human trafficking.
He attributed this to the establishment of the Fishermen Centre, which had been operating for a year before it officially launched late last year.
“But, we received many cases of migrant workers’ rights violations such as unjust salary, improper working environment, and other employment problems.
“The authorities have done a good job to tackle human trafficking. However, I would like to suggest that they be even stricter on human trafficking suppression measures and ensure that migrant workers are protected throughout the entire system,” he said.
He also urged the government to amend related laws to provide more freedom for migrant workers to change their jobs and move freely within Thailand, and make it easier for them to be registered with the authorities. This would prevent them from being taken advantage of by the bad employers and agencies.
In related news, the police revealed that they had rescued more than 160 human-trafficking victims from fishing trawlers between May 2015 and last Thursday.
“Most victims were from Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia,” deputy national police commissioner Pol General Wirachai Songmetta said.
These people were initially promised factory jobs but lured into staying overnight on a boat. When they fell asleep, the boats headed out to sea, leaving them with no choice but to work on fishing trawlers instead, he said.
“Some victims were forced to work more than 20 hours a day,” Wirachai revealed.
He said police had arrested more than 100 suspected wrongdoers in the crackdown on illegal fishing and trafficking of humans working on fishing trawlers.
Between May 2015 and last Thursday, more than 40,000 fishing trawlers were found to have violated laws. Of them, about 9,000 trawlers have already been confiscated.
A total of 4,243 cases of illegal fishing and human trafficking were filed during the period.
Pol Lt-General Charuwat Waisaya, who heads the team against illegal fishing and human trafficking, said Thailand was firmly committed to fighting illegal fishing and had made the highest number of related arrests in Asia.