Delegates tell EU officials of solutions

Published พฤศจิกายน 3, 2014 by SoClaimon

ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Say industries are moving to stamp out child labour, trafficking, abuses

THAI food producers, notably fish exporters, have told European importers and consumers that from now on they are saying “no” to child labour, forced labour, human trafficking and discrimination.

Their rejection of these practices has come with the launch of a series of campaigns for good practice among production chains to counter allegations of use of slave labour.

A delegation of Thai officials and the private sector last week visited Paris and joined a SIAL food exhibition with the theme of “Thai Seafood: Advancement of Labour and Social Responsibility”. They organised a seminar for European importers, traders, media and civic groups who had raised concerns over labour practices in the Thai food industry.

Labour practices became a problem for Thai food exporters earlier this year when the supermarket Carrefour stopping buying prawns from Thai firm CP Foods, following a Guardian report claiming slavery.

The company dismissed the report – but the downgrade in Thailand’s status in the TIP report on human trafficking was a likely repercussion prompted by the Kingdom’s reputation on labour and human rights practices.

“We don’t deny the problem, but have taken the delegation to Europe to tell them we are working hard to solve the problem and improve the situation,” the Foreign Ministry’s head of European Affairs Sarun Charoensuwan said.

The Thai delegation included permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry Pol General Chatchawal Suksomjit, deputy permanent secretary of the Labour Ministry Puntrik Smiti, senior expert on International Fishery Affairs Waraporn Prompoj, director of the Bureau of Anti-trafficking in Women and Children Suwaree Jaiharn and Thai Fishery Producers Coalition director Panisuan Jamnarnwej.

The group also talked to European Commission officials and private sector in Brussels about these issues. Sarun said the Europeans were positive and claimed to understand what Thai authorities and food producers had done. The hosts also wanted Thailand to update them on progress of their work, he said.

With the collaboration of the International Labour Organisation, Thailand launched a Good Labour Practice (GLP) programme in September to improve working conditions in the fishing industry. There are 178 shrimp and seafood processing enterprise voluntary pacts to implement the GLP, Waraporn said.

A key element for the GLP was that companies would pay wages directly to the bank accounts of workers to ensure no brokers or traffickers were involved, she said.

Fishing vessels, which hired more than eight workers, would be scrutinised. There would be a joint inspection scheme by six agencies, including the Marine Department, Marine police, Navy and the Department of Fisheries by means of port in-port out controls. They would inspect the legality of fishing operations, labour — migrant workers’ registration, wages, forced labour and trafficking – no less than 400 times in the coming year, Waraporn said.

Thailand has millions of migrant workers, mostly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Some 1.28 million have registered so far while many cross the borders with the help of traffickers to work in the Kingdom. The fishery sector has 49,000 registered migrant workers, the Labour Ministry’s Puntrik said. Once registered, migrant workers obtain protection from Thai law.

On the legal side, Chatchawal said Thailand had at least seven laws to combat human trafficking, including the 2008 Anti-human Trafficking Act, the 1979 Immigration Act, the 1998 Labour Protection Act, the 1947 Fishery Act, the 2008 Alien Working Act, the criminal code and maritime laws.

Last year, the authorities prosecuted 28 cases of human trafficking in the fishing sector. “We have found a new trend – workers being trafficked by brokers of the same nationalities [as the workers],” he said, noting that Thailand cooperated with neighbouring countries, international organisations and NGOs to try to tackle the problem.

Combating trafficking now focuses on targeting traffickers, not the victims. For the victims, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has programmes to help, according to Suwaree. Of 1,543 trafficked victims in Thailand in 2012-2014, 228 were forced to work on fishing boats. The authorities would provide help for them, no matter what their status was, she said.

The Thai Fishery Producers Coalition is a private sector body with a policy to stop use of illegal labour, child and forced labour and trafficking, director Panisuan said. Members of the group – eight fishery-related producers – have to comply with labour guidelines to combat child labour, forced labour and trafficking.

Members who violated the guidelines would face a boycott by trade partners and the coalition would terminate their membership, he said. “We would buy products only from our membership, so those with revoked membership would no longer be able to trade with us.”

The coalition has measures to check conditions in member enterprises. Employers must make sure workers were not trafficked or are in debt bondage, hit with involuntary overtime or in any way restricted in their movement or ability to change their place of work, he said.

Thai ambassador to Paris Apichart Chinwanno said the EC had not enforced any ban on Thai foods because of labour practices, but European consumers were very concerned about labour practices, social responsibility and environmental impact on their food supply chain.


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