Thailand is set become the first country in Asia to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention C188, which sets basic standards of decent work in the fishing industry. Despite obstructive tactics and attempts to derail the process by some sections of the fisheries industry, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly voted today to ratify the convention. Without further opposition it should be in place January next year.
The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), which has been advising the Thai government on these issues since 2013, applauds this progress and urges Thailand to keep up the momentum for reform, to protect fishers and Thailand’s international reputation.
Thailand’s fishing fleet has, in recent decades, been the scene of slavery, brutal physical abuse, human trafficking, and even murder of vulnerable migrant workers. Failure to act against these criminal operators led to global notoriety for Thailand’s seafood sector, as one of the most abusive and destructive economic sectors in the world.
By setting international standards for decent work in the fishing industry, the International Labour Organisation’s Work in Fishing Convention (C188) is designed to eradicate exactly these types of abuse. Earlier this year, the Royal Thai Government took a progressive and bold move, announcing its intention to ratify this convention before the end of the year.
However, industry representatives such as the National Fisheries Association of Thailand (NFAT) have been using aggressive and disruptive tactics to derail legislative reforms in a bid to avoid any regulation to protect workers across the fishing industry. NFAT has spread discord, disseminated misinformation and generally disrupted efforts toward much-needed reforms. NFAT has also reneged on its previous promises to cooperate with the government to eliminate human and labour rights abuses in the fishing industry.
“The National Legislative Assembly has today taken a bold, progressive and important step towards the protection of workers in the seafood sector from violence and labour abuses. This action is to be applauded, it shows both regional and global leadership by the Royal Thai Government, becoming the first Asian nation to ratify the convention.” said EJF’s Executive Director Steve Trent.
In 2019, Thailand will become chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), providing a unique opportunity to demonstrate further leadership in the region, encouraging neighbouring countries to follow suit.
While the vote by the National Legislative Assembly almost certainly means that the ratification will take place, NFAT may well step up its efforts to prevent it. Now is the time for the Royal Thai Government to defend its principled stance and for the international community to support these actions.
Source: EF Foundation