BANGKOK – Thailand defended on Thursday the progress it has made in addressing labor abuse and human trafficking in the country’s fishing sector following a critical report by Human Rights Watch in the European Parliament.
Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Busadee Santipitaks, acknowledged the problems in the sector and expressed gratitude to the European Union, the International Labour Organization and nonprofit organizations for their help in fighting the widespread exploitation in the sector.
“But we were quite upset that some interviews and information in the report date back to 2016,” she told EFE, adding that the government has made progress since then.
While presenting the report on Tuesday, HRW said Thailand has brought in laws and increased surveillance to curb forced labor and other abuses in the fishing industry, but that the measures have not been effective.
It also called on the EU to urge Thailand to end human trafficking and other violations in the fishing industry.
A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday condemned HRW’s “sweeping and ungrounded allegations as well as politically biased accusations,” adding that it had “missed the prevailing facts on the ground and intentionally ignored progresses, positive developments and efforts undertaken by the Thai Government.”
Busadee insisted that the government has improved mechanisms for workers to report abuses and inspectors to identify them but acknowledged the problem is a tough one.
She also reiterated the commitment of her country, governed by a military junta since 2014, in the fight against illegal fishing to ensure the sector’s sustainability.
Thailand, one of the world’s largest exporters of fish products, has received warnings from the EU and the United States in recent years over illegal practices and labor abuse in its fishing sector.