CABLE: Thai Government, Private Sector, and NGOs Engage on Trafficking in Fishing Industry

“200312”,”4/2/2009 10:08″,”09BANGKOK853″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,””,”VZCZCXRO7464
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHJO RUEHNH RUEHPOD
DE RUEHBK #0853/01 0921008
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021008Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6620
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 6396
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE”,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 000853

Department for G/TIP CChan-Downer, DRL/IL MJunk
DOL/ILAB for Brandie Sasser

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB, PHUM, KTIP, TH
SUBJECT: Thai Government, Private Sector, and NGOs Engage on
Trafficking in Fishing Industry

BANGKOK 00000853 001.2 OF 002

Sensitive But Unclassified. For Official Use Only.

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: Minister of Social Development and
Human Security Issara Somchai provided opening remarks March 25 at a
NGO-organized seminar on the problem of human trafficking in the
deep sea fishing industry. The Minister\’s participation, along with
that of multiple police officials and representatives from the
Ministries of Labor and Foreign Affairs, signaled the Royal Thai
Government\’s (RTG) recognition of the seriousness of the problem.
Private fishing industry representatives also attended the seminar,
allowing the proceedings to go beyond simple venting that sometimes
characterizes conferences attended only by civil society
representatives and social workers. The participation of private
sector representatives contributed to the growing dialogue among all
stakeholders on how to best combat the problem of human trafficking
in the fishing industry. End summary and comment.

2. (U) Laboff attended a March 25 seminar on human trafficking
(TIP) in the deep sea fishing industry, organized by the
non-governmental Mirror Foundation and financed by the International
Labor Organization (ILO) (NOTE: According to its website, the
non-profit Mirror Foundation, originally established to provide
broad assistance to ethnic minority \”hill tribe\” people in northern
Thailand, has expanded activities to provide assistance to human
trafficking victims. End Note). The approximately 75 participants
in the seminar represented various civil society organizations
(NGOs), the Royal Thai Government\’s (RTG) Ministry of Social
Development and Human Security (MSDHS), and Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MFA). Twenty-nine representatives from the Ministry of
Labor\’s (MOL) provincial-level offices in areas known to be source
and destination areas for fishing industry workers also attended.
Importantly, the private fishing industry was also present,
represented by Titikorn Lohakoop, Secretary General of the Fishing
Association of Thailand, and Aphisit Techanitiswat, President of the
Deep Sea Fishing Association.

3. (SBU) In an showing of the seriousness with which the RTG takes
the issue, Minister of Social Development and Human Security Issara
Somchai provided opening remarks with a message of commitment to
prevent and to combat human trafficking in the fishing industry. He
told the audience that at the Anti-TIP Committee (ATP) meeting
chaired by the Prime Minister on February 23, the committee agreed
to set up a working group to look specifically at TIP in the fishing
industry. Wanlop Phloytabtim, the Permanent Secretary of MSDHS,
also spoke, emphasizing that the RTG recognizes the potential for
TIP in the industry. He noted that the RTG understands the serious
of the problem and said that Thai laborers usually shun fishing jobs
due to the difficult and sometimes dangerous nature of the work.
Wanlop explained that this generates a demand for foreign workers in
the industry who are often vulnerable to exploitation by labor
brokers willing to engage in trafficking.

4. (SBU) Two panel discussions with representatives from the
private sector, NGOs, police, MSDHS, and MOL followed, generating
discussion during a question and answer session. Interesting points
included those made by a representative from the Mirror Foundation:

– Most of the Foundation\’s cases of missing persons involve laborers
from deep sea fishing vessels.

– Most TIP victims from the deep sea fishing industry assisted by
he Foundation were lured to work on vessels with a promise of high
wages. If their vessel\’s crew failed to catch enough fish to make a
profit, captains sometimes declined to pay workers.

– Payments to workers usually entail fixed payments and payments
made through profit sharing agreements.

He pointed out what he considers key obstacles to the protection of
worker rights in the deep sea fishing industry:

– The Labor Protection Act does not provide protection to laborers
on oceanic fishing vessels who continuously work outside of Thailand
(e.g. in international waters) for more than one year. Workers in
the fishing industry do not have access to the government social
security system. (NOTE: Pornchai Yooprayong, the Deputy Permanent
Secretary of the MOL, (one of the panelists) stated he would study
the suggestion that the Labor Protection Act be revised to address
this problem. End Note).

– Most workers on fishing boats are migrants or poorly-educated
Thais who do not have knowledge of relevant laws or their rights.
Generally poor, they are often more interested in finding work, even
after being victimized, than assisting authorities with prosecution
efforts.

BANGKOK 00000853 002.2 OF 002

– Checks of vessels prior to their departure (by Immigration police,
Customs officials, Public Health officers, etc.) are not rigorously
carried out.

5. (SBU) In addition, an ILO representative stated that one-third
of the child labor cases in which it provides assistance involve the
fishing and fishing-related industries. A representative from the
MFA commented on the difficulty of coordinating with other nations
to assist Thai TIP victims abroad and explained that many
governments view TIP victims as illegal migrants who should be
penalized, not aided. The Secretary General of the Fishing
Association of Thailand noted that while TIP victims are sometimes
found on deep sea vessels, they are generally not found on
day-fishing boats, which generally employ Thai laborers. While
stating he recognizes the problem of TIP in his industry, the
President of the Deep Sea Fishing Association suggested the
government should provide assistance to boat owners to defray costs
(even if this implied increased regulation) so that owners do not
need to rely on cheap labor to turn a profit.

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