Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai fishing under scrutiny

Thai fishing under scrutiny

Thai fishing under scrutiny

Trafficking victims who were forced to work without pay on Thai fishing vessels stand outside the Phnom Penh office of rights group Licadho in August.

Thailand's government should take urgent steps to combat the widespread trafficking of men from Cambodia and other countries into the notoriously abusive Thai fishing industry, the International Organisation for Migration says in a new report.

Released publicly on Friday after being submitted to the Thai government as a draft late last year, the report makes a range of recommendations to address the problem, including the establishment of an industry-wide migrant worker database by the Thai government.

“For an increasingly sophisticated industry, Thailand’s recruitment for workers in the fishing sector remains largely based on informal recruiting processes which often lead to abuse and foster human trafficking,” the IOM said.

“Current labour recruitment processes result in many cases of deception and human trafficking while failing to address the chronic labour shortages plaguing the fishing sector.”

The creation of a government-run labour recruitment centre is another recommended reform. Thailand could face trade sanctions if it fails to adequately address the problem, the IOM added.

Interviews conducted by the IOM with trafficking victims from the Thai fishing industry paint a frightening picture of the threats allegedly used to enslave workers.

“I killed the guy that you are replacing, if you try to flee I will take care of you too,” a former fisherman in the report recalls a boat captain telling him.

Crackdowns on fraudulent registration documents and corrupt police officials are vital to clean up what has become an increasingly lucrative industry, the report said.

Lim Tith, national project coordinator at the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, said last year that the industry was worth roughly US$2 billion annually, or 1.5 percent of Thailand’s total exports.

While comprehensive data on the issue is nonexistent, trafficking experts say thousands of Cambodian men have quietly but consistently fallen victim in recent years to scams that land them adrift on Thai fishing vessels, labouring for little to no pay in brutal conditions.

Hou Vuthy, deputy director general at the Ministry of Labour, called labour aboard Thai fishing vessels “dangerous work”, and said the government would discourage migrant labourers from joining the industry.

He was unsure of the number of Cambodians involved in such work.

Nearly 125,000 Cambodians were registered to work in Thailand as of last year, along with untold thousands more who are undocumented.



  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said

  • Protests planned in New York as Hun Sen to attend the UN

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week. But US-based supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) plan to throw eggs at his car as part of a series of protests to coincide

  • CPP: ‘Behave or Sokha suffers’

    The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman warned Kem Monovithya on Thursday that her attempt to damage “national reputation and prestige” would lead to her father, Kem Sokha, receiving even harsher punishment. Sok Eysan issued the warning as Monovithya, who is the court dissolved

  • Preah Sihanouk beach developments halted

    After receiving an order from Hun Sen, Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara led a team of experts and relevant officials to Sihanoukville to call a halt to the illegal development of a beach. The prime minister ordered the Prek Treng beach in Otres commune