The European Union is considering introducing an all-out ban on Thai fishing products due to problems with labor abuses of the immigrant labor force mainly coming from Myanmar and Cambodia. Thailand is the world’s third biggest seafood exporter but the sector is under heightened international scrutiny for right abuses and trafficked labor. Last month, more than 100 were arrested on trafficking charges linked to the fishing industry. Overall, authorities registered about 200,000 undocumented foreign workers in the sector.
Thailand’s ruling military junta, which came to power in 2014, wants to avoid any harm or threat to the country’s fishing industry while it is desperately trying to revive the domestic economy. Foreign ministry spokesman, Sek Wannamethee, commented yesterday (1 March) on the recent compensation paid by a Thai tuna-processing factory in Samut Sakhon to its staff for labor abuses by saying that “the government is committed to use this approach in order to eliminate labor exploitation and to uplift the quality of life of workers in Thailand”. The $1.3 million compensation for a myriad of labor abuses is an unusual victory for immigrant workers in the kingdom’s fishing industry.
EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstroem, commented that Thailand’s shortcomings are against the trade principles of the European Union, mainly “Trade for All” strategy, which takes into account also civil liberties, work conditions and human rights in trade negotiations. Miguel Ceballos Baron, Mrs Malmstroem’s Deputy Head of Cabinet, even said that the European Parliament would never ratify a deal with Thailand even if the Commission negotiated one. Other EU representatives also confirmed that Brussels must continue using its influence on Bangkok wisely in order to promote and achieve “sustainable, legal and, above all, ethical products from the Thai fishing industry”. A European Union delegation visited Thailand in January to access its progress in fighting illegal and unregulated fishing after it had criticized it in April last year for not being able to crack down on the problems in fishing.