International Media Puts the Spotlight on use of ‘Slave Labor’ in Thailand’s Fishing Industry

An extensive investigation by British newspaper, The Guardian, has uncovered evidence of endemic use of “slave” labour in Thailand’s fishing industry, with migrant workers being “beaten, tortured, and killed.”

The investigation said that the 270,000 migrant workers in Thailand’s fishing industry were vulnerable to human trafficking and rampant exploitation in a racket involving brokers, boat captains and corrupt Thai authorities.

The Guardian report also accused CP Foods, a Thai company, of being directly linked to slavery because it sourced fishmeal from fishmeal factories that purchased fish from trawlers using slave labour. CP Foods uses fishmeal to feed prawns that it then sells to international markets including the United States and the European Union.

Two international unions confirmed much of what The Guardian claimed in its investigation and expressed their condemnation of the “appalling exploitation” of migrant workers in Thailand’s fishing industry.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation and International Union of Food, Agricultural and Hospitality Workers, issued a joint statement accusing Thailand’s military government of ignoring the rights of workers.

Liz Blackshaw, programme leader for the joint ITF/IUF From catcher to counter initiative said that Thailand should be blacklisted for its treatment of migrant workers. “It is shocking that Thailand’s new military government was this week the only one to vote against a new ILO protocol to fight forced labour. We would expect the USA to be putting the country in the worst category of its human trafficking blacklist,” Blackshaw said, referring to a decision by the military government to not ratify the International Labour Organisation’s ‘Work in Fishing Convention No.188, which helps protect the rights of workers in the fishing industry.

Blackshaw urged international companies buying products from Thailand’s fishing industry to do more rigorous checking of their supply chains. “This publicity is hugely helpful. It will be welcomed by everyone fighting this disgusting human trade. It also shows the need for retailers to audit the entire supply chain to ensure that all products are sourced ethically and responsibly. Consumers deserve and demand transparency and rigorous checking.”

Ica, a Norwegian retailer, announced that it would remove products linked to CP foods from its shelves in response to The Guardian report.

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