NGOs issue letter to Vella, EU, over Thai human rights abuses

Date: February 23, 2016

Source & Author: Undercurrent News

Human Rights at Sea has joined fellow international labor, environmental and human rights organizations in support of a letter sent to Karmenu Vella, the EU Commissioner for fisheries, maritime affairs and environment at the European Commission.

The letter urges the commission to maintain pressure on Thailand to build upon positive reforms that have recently been made to its fishing industry, to ensure that the reforms have longevity and to address the structural problems that facilitate both illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and human rights abuses.

“Our charity continues to support the persistent efforts of a number of global organisations and NGOs who are focused in continuing to highlight the realities of abuses at sea both within and related to the Thai seafood sector,” said Human Rights at Sea CEO, David Hammond.

“It is key that  the EU Commission has access to objective reporting and independent assessments so that it can make informed decisions.”

The letter asks the Committee to take human rights into account when assessing Thailand’s seafood sector. To demonstrate sufficient progress, Thailand should implement a time-bound action plan focused on effective enforcement to ensure substantial, measurable progress toward a legal, sustainable and ethical seafood industry, it added.

The letter notes that Thailand has made some progress on monitoring, control and surveillance of vessels within its fishing fleet since the commission first made its yellow card designation in April 2015, but cites concerns over lax enforcement of those measures and ongoing vulnerabilities among Thailand’s migrant worker population that leaves them prone to exploitation in seafood harvesting and processing.

It also criticizes the Thai government for use of criminal defamation to prosecute those who speak out about human trafficking.

If Thailand still fails to demonstrate improved enforcement of laws to protect human rights in its seafood sector after the extension period, the groups say that the commission should consider issuing a red card.

The organizations encourage the commission to keep pressure on the government and the industry high until Thailand can demonstrate results from actions taken against human traffickers and their enablers, who force men and boys from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos to endure a life of misery as victims of trafficking in the Thai seafood industry.

“Proper incentives will be critical to addressing decades of inadequate fisheries oversight and exploitation of migrant workers in Thailand,” said Abby McGill, campaigns director at the International Labor Rights Forum.

“The EU Commission should continue to push for measurable progress on enforcement until the Thai government demonstrates the political will to respect the rights of its migrant worker population and formalizes effective legal mechanisms to protect them.”

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