Thailand took a major step forward in fighting modern slavery by ratifying the International Labour Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention this Wednesday.
This now makes Thailand the first country in the region to ratify this convention, which prescribes binding rules for conditions on fishing vessels. The fishing industry is largely unregulated in Asia, and the Global Slavery Index notes that fishermen in China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“Thailand is setting an excellent example for the region … I look forward to other Asian countries soon following suit,” the director-general of the United Nations agency Guy Ryder.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
The ILO convention ratified by Thailand includes requirements relating to occupational safety and health, medical care at sea and ashore, rest periods, written work agreements and social security protection.
It aims to ensure that fishing vessels provide decent living conditions for workers on board.
Ratifying the convention showed the government’s strong political will to ensure that working conditions in its domestic fishing industry meet ILO standards, Thai Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo said in a statement.
It underlines Thailand’s full commitment to raising the standards of labour protection for both Thai and migrant workers and eliminating forced labour, he added.
Still, human rights campaigners stress that the ILO convention must now be fully reflected in domestic Thai law, which may be a challenge due to industry pushback.
“We’ve seen influential Thai fishing fleet owners fight tooth and nail against this convention from the start,” said Phil Robertson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“So we’re expecting a serious fight to get a law that results in meaningful rights protections and improvements in fishermen’s lives.”
Thailand is one of the world’s top seafood exporters and the industry contributes US$6 billion to Thai exports.