World Bulletin/News Desk
Thailand has abandoned a scheme to put prisoners to work on the country's fishing fleet, local media reported Tuesday.
The plan to fill a workforce shortage in Thailand’s fishing industry with convicts was condemned by human rights and labor campaigners last week as a "serious threat to the human rights of prisoners."
Conditions aboard Thai fishing vessels are notorious, with numerous reports detailing human trafficking, debt bondage, physical abuse, non-payment of wages, confinement, 20-hour working days and even the murder of workers.
In a statement reported in the Bangkok Post, the Foreign Ministry said the plan had been withdrawn, adding that it was an "exploratory idea" and part of a government policy to help prisoners reintegrate into society.
Last month, the Labor Ministry said it would send consenting prisoners with less than a year left of their sentences to work on fishing boats. The government said the move would combat the human trafficking that supplies labor to the industry.
The 89. 6 billion baht ($2.7 billion) fishing industry is vital to the Thai economy and employs more than 300,000 workers, around 90 percent of whom are migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia often not registered to work legally in Thailand and therefore vulnerable to abuse.
Last year, Thailand was ranked lowest in the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report, with the fishing industry cited as a major source of concern.
"Sending prisoners to sea will not address the systematic, pervasive labor problems in Thailand’s fishing industry," Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said in a statement last week. "It is time for the Thai government to recognize that its treatment of migrant workers lies at the heart of the problem."
NGOs opposed to the plan predicted it could have negative economic and political consequences for Thailand, with retailers and consumers increasingly aware that Thai seafood is produced by forced labor.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Ocak 2015, 14:20