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Spotlight on serious woes that plague fishing sector

CORRUPTION, high registration fees, exploitative Thai employers and a lack of government support are the key issues behind the violation of human rights and other industry-related problems, a seminar was told yesterday.

The speakers at a Chulalongkorn University seminar also offered solutions, such as: educating fishing trawler owners about human rights, more participation by government agencies and non-government groups, and effective law enforcement. These topics will be presented in a meeting next week with the National Council for Peace and Order.

Thai Tuna Industry Association chairman, Chanin Chalissarapong, said Thai authorities or international or independent bodies like the International Labour Organisation, should work to combat human trafficking while law enforcement must be more efficient and straightforward. He said a long-term solution to the problems would be a limit on the number of fishing trawlers.

Thai Overseas Fishers’ Association (TOFA) manager, Pornpoj Ngamwiriyatham, said abuse of migrant crew members could not be solved immediately because not all owners of fishing trawlers were TOFA members. He claimed that many documentary reports which convinced the US to downgrade Thailand were exaggerated or re-edited, using old information on abuses that had decreased, or did not exist.

The Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation, through senior official Sompong Sakaew, condemned corrupt officials.

He said they took bribes from illegal migrant workers after arrests, a longstanding problem which could be solved by efficient and thorough registration of all workers.

High registration fees of around Bt15,000 should be cut to encourage the workers "to come into the system", while a central service should be set up to receive petitions from workers.

Sompong also warned the industry to be prepared for a lack of Myanmar workers in the near future. Many are expected to return to their home country after it opens up and needs a bigger workforce as its economy grows and reforms.

Prof Surichai Wungaeo, head of CU's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said bilateral or multilateral cooperation was needed to solve the regional problems of human trafficking and human rights' violations. He said the problems had intensified in Thailand because state agencies' main concerns focused on national security and overlooked financial and human security.

He said minor reform of human trafficking and rights' violation issues was now underway and would provide a good kick-start with the NCPO being involved.

This would be taken over later by civilian governments coming once the junta allows elections.

Ratchada Chaiyakupt, a researcher with CU's Asian Research Centre for Migration, which held the seminar, said immigration police and the Army should take a greater role in dealing with issues.

Thai employers should be educated more about regulations and the importance of observing international principles on human trafficking and rights' violations.








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