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Thais defend record on fishing vessel abuses

Migrant workers unload fish from a docked boat at a port in Mahachai, on the outskirts of Bangkok last year. AFP
Migrant workers unload fish from a docked boat at a port in Mahachai, on the outskirts of Bangkok last year. AFP

Thais defend record on fishing vessel abuses

A month after the Cambodian Human Rights Committee sent a request to its Thai counterpart asking it to implement safety measures to protect Cambodians working in often slave-like conditions on Thai boats, the committee yesterday received a response claiming Thai authorities had long ago taken sufficient action.

In its letter, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand defended the Thai government’s work, pointing to the ongoing registration of undocumented migrant workers, the establishment of a council dealing with human trafficking and a list of recommendations made to the Thai government last year.

However, the ongoing rampant abuses on Thai boats contradicted the body’s claims, said Dy Thehoya, program officer with labour rights group Central. “I think the Thai government just wanted to shore up its good image with the international community, that it really takes serious measures against perpetrators of fishing boat slavery,” he said. “In fact, it’s just in writing – no clear mechanism and strong commitment.”

Keo Remy, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the Thai human rights commission has “been really a bit player in the larger policy discussions about abuses of Cambodian fishers Thai boats, which is unfortunate”.

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