A report from the International Labor Rights Forum, released on Friday, has said that forced labour and other abuses of foreign workers on board fishing vessels in neighbouring Thailand are likely to continue unless the government and industry actors take a different approach to resolving the problems they face.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour has estimated that there are 1.05 million Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand, with the International Labour Organization saying in 2017 that there are around 300,000 foreign workers, mainly Burmese, Cambodian and Lao, in the country’s fishing industry.
In the report overview, it says, “the project set out to better inform the government, industry leaders and civil society on action plans, utilising technology platforms to systematically collect, analyse and report on work at sea, and connect workers to workers’ organisations to implement such systems and remediate the situation”.
The report recommends that the Thai government ratifies the nine core conventions of the International Labour Organization – specifically conventions 87, 98, 29, 105, 138, 182, 100, 111, and 188. Convention 188 relates to work and rest hours, for example.
The Phnom Penh Post reached out to Cambodian fishermen in Rakyorng province in Thailand by phone to gain an insight into the problems Cambodian migrants face in the fishing industry.
One Cambodian, Chork Ny, 30, from Svay Rieng province, has been working in Thailand for more than two years, and has faced many difficulties with his employer.
“I didn’t get a written contract for my working days or working hours, and I have worked both day shifts and night shifts. My salary was also not written in a contract – I only got oral contract details from my employer that my salary is 10,000 baht ($315) without an explanation of contract duration, working hours or other conditions,” he said.
Heng Sour, spokesman at the Ministry of Labour, could not be reached for comment.
Khun Tharo, project officer at NGO Central, said: “The Thai government has not yet ratified the core conventions of the ILO, specifically Convention 87 on the right to form unions and associations, and Convention 98, the right to collective bargaining. The Thai labour law also does not include protection mechanisms for foreign fishing workers.”
“At the same time, the Cambodian and Thai governments have signed a memorandum of understanding about sending and receiving migrant workers, including fisherman. The Cambodian government has to review the MoU to ensure good working conditions,” he said.
“The government should look at the bilateral agreement between Cambodia and Thailand . . . the government needs to ensure the protection of their workers.”