Are improvements for Thai fishermen near?

On Human Rights Day (10th of December), we discussed common human right violations in the fishing industry.  In the Thai fishing industry, Human Rights Watch documented forced labour and other human rights abuses. For several years now, pressure has been put on the Thai government by human rights organisation to improve this.

After ratifying the Forced Labour Convention last summer, the Thai government has now announced that it will become the first Asian nation to ratify the International Labor Organisation Convention on Work in Fishing. This step could be an important one for the many workers in the Thai fishing industry, if the Thai government will live up to its promises. 

According to Johnny Hansen, chair of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Fisheries section, “This Convention will change the work and living conditions for thousands of fishers, working in one of the most dangerous and often unpoliced professions in the world,”. In Thailand, it is expected to result in improvements such as improved living and subsistence arrangements on board of vessels and clearer guidelines on employment contracts and working hours. It will especially help the migrant crews of Thai vessels that generally operate further from shore for longer periods of time. 

The fact that Thailand is the first country in the region to commit to the ILO convention could mean a wake-up call to the region as a whole. For this, good implementation of the convention is required. Also, other ILO conventions such as the Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, might be needed. As stated by the International Labor Rights Forum: “For real change to happen for workers, Thailand must allow migrant workers to form their own independent and democratic trade unions.”. This would further strengthen the position of workers, that are still vulnerable to various forms of abuse. 

Source: Nick Kightley, ‘Thai government starts to act on fishing industry problems’ (19 December 2018) via Ethical Trading Initiative website; ILO website; Asia Times, ‘Thailand ratifies ILO convention on ‘work in fishing’‘ (3 December 2018).