On 10th October 2016, Executive Director Steve Trent from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) met with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan in Bangkok to discuss the reforms by the Royal Thai Government (RTG) to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and associated human trafficking and labour abuse.
EJF is encouraged by the positive political commitment and willingness of the RTG to tackle IUU and urges the RTG to continue its efforts in improving areas identified by the EU carding process across the Thai fisheries sector and the wider industry.
In order to maintain the effectiveness of the progress up to date and to facilitate success in resolving the issues of IUU and human trafficking in the future, it is now crucial for the RTG to continue demonstrating high-level leadership in these efforts whilst also tackling critical issues that remain unaddressed and pose an obstacle to the long-term success of these improvements.
Key reforms need to centre on amending the labour regulations to provide migrant workers with the freedom of association and collective bargaining, on structurally decreasing the critical overcapacity of the fishing fleet, and on entrenching effective enforcement and a culture of compliance within the statutory agencies. Crucially, there needs to be assurance from the RTG that the implemented reforms can be sustained in the future and across political transitions.
The RTG has further started implementing wide-ranging labour and fisheries inspections for vessels, but these continue to be undermined by inconsistent implementation of operational protocols across the Thai Port-In Port-Out system, a lack of translations services to communicate with migrant crew and screen for indicators of abuse, as well as a lack of coherent enforcement. Similar shortcomings continue to impede the effectiveness and quality of the vessel monitoring system and actions to establish a sustainable fisheries management plan.
EJF is positive about the reform progress and efforts undertaken by the RTG, but major IUU and human trafficking issues continue to persist. EJF urges the RTG to maintain its strong commitment and to introduce and enforce in the near term the appropriate legislative and operational mechanisms that will entrench positive change over time and across the region.