At a press conference in Bangkok, leaders from the Board of Trade, Chamber of Commerce, four fishing industry associations and representatives of some of the largest companies in the seafood sector urged other businesses along the entire supply chain to get on board and join in their efforts to eliminate trafficking, labor abuse and unsustainable fishing practices.
Poj Aramwattananont, vice chairman of the Board of Trade and president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association, said that the government had imposed tangible measures for combating problems related to illegal employment. What is needed now, he said, is more efficiency in implementing those measures so that they will be even more effective.
He urged the United States and the European Union to recognize Thailand’s sincere actions to fight these problems. “We [businesses] expect that the U.S. and the E.U. will fairly consider upgrading Thailand’s status during the upcoming revisions,” said Poj, adding that the government had made strong efforts to solve labour problems during its first year in office. The U.S. will release its annual global Trafficking in Persons report any time soon.
Some members of the government, however, have voiced concern that because the review period for the upcoming report ended on March 31, it will not include some of the strongest actions and achievements. In recent weeks, Thai authorities uncovered graves and virtual prison camps where trafficked foreign migrants were being held. Police cracked the case from information obtained in an investigation of an incident in January when several trucks of trafficking Rohingya migrants were discovered.
Since the camps were discovered, Thai authorities have made dozens of arrests. Among those arrested were an army general, policemen and local politicians in the south. Last week, Malaysia’s Home Minister told local media that Thailand had handed over several suspects in the cases to Malaysian police. He declined to say exactly how many were sent to Malaysia, but said some could be described as “kingpins” and they were being interrogated.
Thai police, meanwhile, said that all 238 witnesses in the cases were under police protection, and three people that witnesses claimed were harassing and intimidating them had been arrested.
Following the discovery of the camps, more camps were discovered in Malaysia, and Thailand participated in a multilateral operation with the United States to rescue migrants and trafficking victims from Myanmar and Bangladesh stranded at sea. Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier organized a regional meeting on May 29 to try and get regional collaboration to solve the problem.
Most of the actions, however, took place after the review period by the State Department ended and will probably not be reflected in the upcoming report.
Nonetheless, business and government leaders said that Thailand is committed to solving the problem and will continue to sustain its efforts no matter what the U.S. report says.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org