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Thai Government makes right decision about prison labor program

(Washington, D.C.)  -- The Government of Thailand announced last week that it will scrap a proposed project to recruit prisoners to work on Thai fishing boats. The announcement came after 45 labor and human rights groups that raised concerns about the program in a letter on January 14. This coalition of interested organizations welcomes the Thai government’s decision, and the statement’s focus on addressing human trafficking. We hope this marks a shift in approach by the Thai government to operate in a truly consultative manner to solve the fishing industry’s serious human trafficking problem, working in close consultation with the workers, employers, unions, NGOs and other stakeholders on building effective implementation of labor rights protections in its fishing fleet.

Thailand still has much work to do to improve working conditions in the fishing industry. The legal and enforcement gaps cited in the letter are still of great concern. The recently amended ministerial regulation 10 to the Labor Protection Act is a good step forward, for which all actors in government and industry should be commended. But more needs to be done. Legislative changes alone will not succeed without much stronger enforcement and focus on ensuring the rule of law in both migration policy and on fishing boats.

We encourage the Thai government to engage in a genuine stakeholder dialogue to devise and implement needed improvements to enforcement mechanisms and additional legal reforms. We reiterate that improving working conditions within the industry and bolstering the rights of Thailand’s migrant workforce, including by granting them the right to form unions, is vital to actually address human trafficking in Thailand’s fishing industry. 

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