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ITF Fishers' Rights Network Petitions For C188 Enforcement in Thailand

Credit: ITF
Credit: ITF

By The Maritime Executive 2019-11-25 18:54:02

More than 1,200 migrant fishers have signed a petition calling on the Thai Government to effectively implement and enforce ILO Work in Fishing Convention 188 which Thailand ratified in January 2019.

Leaders from the ITF Fishers Rights Network formally presented the petition to The Permanent Secretary of Labor at the ILO Ship to Shore Rights Project Steering Committee meeting last week. 

Thailand ratified C188, which sets basic standards of work in the fishing industry, in early 2019 in a move towards combating exploitation and trafficking in the fishing industry and to complement its efforts to stamp out IUU fishing. 

Johnny Hansen, chair of the ITF Fisheries Section, said: “Fishers Rights Network has consistently found instances of forced labor, debt bondage, high document fees, fishers paid less than minimum wage, boats that lack clean water and adequate food supplies, and unsafe working conditions.

“The Thai Government has passed regulations to address these problems, but implementation has been poor. It’s clear that Thailand still has a long way to go to effectively implement and enforce the C188 provisions. Fishers are still suffering exploitation and labor abuse that cannot be tolerated.”

Despite the Thai Government’s efforts to ensure all fishers are paid through an e-payment system, many employers transfer and withdraw the wages themselves and continue to pay fishers in cash. Transfer statements are then used as proof of payment, effectively circumventing the regulation. 

There are an estimated 4.5 million migrant workers in Thailand with 222,000 workers in the seafood processing sector and approximately 129,000 workers onboard fishing vessels.

Thailand’s seafood exports totaled 1.56 million tonnes worth over $6.8 billion in 2018. The main export markets include Japan (20 percent), U.S. (20 percent), other ASEAN countries (nine percent), and the E.U. (eight percent).

The Environmental Justice Foundation has also been working to help Thailand improve conditions in the fishing industry. Last month, Deputy Prime Minister, General Prawit Wongsuwan, committed Thailand to protect and build on recent fisheries reforms during a meeting with the Environmental Justice Foundation’s Executive Director, Steve Trent. Thailand was the first country in Asia to ratify the Convention C188. This progress has been recognized by the E.U., and the country’s “yellow card” trade warning over illegal fishing was lifted earlier this year. In recent months, however, concerns have been raised over lobbying by the National Fisheries Association of Thailand.