Thailand accused of ignoring Myanmar migrants' plight

NGO accuses Thai government of turning blind eye to trafficking of Myanmar migrants to work in Kingdom's fishing industry.

Thailand accused of ignoring Myanmar migrants' plight

World Bulletin / News Desk

A British environmental group has accused the Thai government of turning a blind eye to the trafficking of Myanmar migrants to work in the Kingdom's fishing industry.

Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) found in a 2014 investigation that "endemic corruption, poor enforcement, inadequate victim support, unacceptable working conditions and deficient migration policy have not been addressed" in the country.

The NGO released a report Tuesday titled “Slavery at Sea: The Continued Plight of Trafficked Migrants in Thailand’s Fishing Industry.” In the report, it calls for the United States to downgrade the status of Thailand in its annual trafficking report – a measure which would lead to commercial sanctions.

Between 2-3 million migrants from Myanmar work in Thailand, around half of them illegally. A large number work in seafood processing factories along the coast of the Gulf of Thailand or on fishing boats after arriving in the country through brokers who promise them jobs in factories, but then send them to sea.

They work from 6-10 months without payment in order to reimburse the “broker’s fee” and are not allowed to leave the boat during this initial period, the report - released March 4 - said.

EJF gave the example of a 21-year-old Myanmar worker who was promised work in a pineapple factory, but then driven to the Thai fishing port of Samesan where he was told to get on a fishing boat.

“He was compelled to work on the boat for ten months without pay before he managed to escape. He and his fellow crew suffered abuse and violence at the hands of the boat’s captain,” the report said.

Thai authorities responded to the report with a statement saying they are trying to fight human trafficking, highlighting fishing boat owners' construction of a new center to regulate the trade and support police in the instance of abuse.

Thailand's Department of Special Investigation, a department of the Thai Police under the Ministry of Justice, has also launched several raids over the last two years to rescue Myanmar workers who were under-aged, abused or retained on boats against their will.

EJF, however, concluded that “insufficient progress is being made by Thailand - one of the world's largest seafood exporters to the U.S. and Europe - to suppress and prevent human trafficking” in the industry.

Last Mod: 05 Mart 2014, 10:04
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