UN: Thai Businesses Must Act to Curb Abuses at Home and Abroad

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The United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights has completed its 10-day visit to evaluate Thailand’s progress in addressing major labor abuses in the country.

The UN says significant progress has been made in the fishing industry but there are still significant problems in other sectors and migrant workers are still barred from forming labor unions.

“We recognise that a lot has been done to stamp out abusive practices in the fishing industry, but the glass is half empty, and a lot remains to be done,” said UN official Dante Pesce.

“The government and businesses must take similar actions to identify, prevent and remedy human rights violations in other sectors such as agriculture, energy, textiles, manufacturing and construction.”

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

The U.N. group, which made its first visit to the country on the invitation of the Thai government, met with officials, businesses and civil society organisations, Pesce said. It will submit a complete report next year.

Thailand has more than 3 million migrant workers, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Giving migrant workers the right to form unions, and allowing campaigners to speak up can empower them, said Surya Deva, another member of the U.N. group.

“A critical challenge will be to end recurring attacks, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, union leaders and community representatives,” he said.

Surya added that Thai businesses must also ensure their operations in other countries are upholding labor rights.

“If Thai companies are investing outside and benefiting from these investments, then for any rights violations that occur there, there must be a remedy mechanism in Thailand,” he said.

In recent years Thailand’s fishing industry has come under intense international scrutiny after investigative journalists revealed thousands of migrant workers were being trafficked onto fishing vessels and abused at sea.

Just last month the International Labour Organization issued a report that forced labor persists in Thailand’s fishing industry, with abusive working conditions and excessive overtime being common.

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