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Thailand Announced the Roadmap towards the IUU-Free Thailand

4 April 2018

On 3 April 2018, the Thai Cabinet approved the roadmap for the development of Thailand’s fisheries to be free from aquatic animals and fisheries products obtained from the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and also the establishment of the national committee on IUU aquatic animals and fisheries products-free fisheries as a preventive mechanism to ensure that no IUU aquatic animals and fisheries products would enter Thailand’s domestic market as well as the production chain for exportation.     

During the past three years, in a continuous effort to combat the IUU fishing, the Royal Thai Government has set up systems and mechanisms which have been delivering concrete results in many areas, with a view to pursuing the following roadmap towards becoming an IUU-free country.    

1. All Thai fishing vessels, of all types, sizes, and functions, must be registered into the system for effective control. All vessels’ equipment and conditions must also comply with legal restrictions. 

2. The vessel’s personnel must meet the qualification and minimum number of personnel as stipulated in the law. Migrant workers must be legally registered and are entitled to protection according to international standards.     

3. Fishing gears must comply with the law in terms of types and sizes, and must be verified prior to and during fishing activities, especially for overseas fishing vessels. The fishing activities must be reported through the electronic reporting system for transparency and inspection.     

4. Fishing areas and fishing periods for both inside and outside territorial waters must be restricted as identified in the fishing licenses. All vessels must install the vessel monitoring system.     

5. Aquatic animals caught by Thai-flagged vessels and those imported from other countries must undergo the stringent traceability inspections according to regulations and systems, including the Port State Measures Agreement to which Thailand is a party. Moreover, Thailand will develop the Thai Catch Certificate Scheme for other exporting countries to abide by in order for effective traceability of the catch.    

In addition, the Royal Thai Government has also set up the National Committee on IUU Aquatic Animals and Fisheries Product-free Fisheries to monitor and mobilise the above-mentioned measures to engender concrete results, as well as to promote Thailand as a regional leader in combatting IUU fishing.

Key Progress on Illegal Ivory Trade Suppression in Thailand

2 April 2018

Thailand attaches utmost importance in combating wildlife trafficking, closely cooperates with international organizations and actively participates in actions to terminate ivory trade in Thailand. According to the latest analysis of the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS analysis), Thailand’s status on illegal ivory trade has been upgraded from the ‘primary concern’ to the ‘secondary concern’ by CITES which was announced at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) in 2016. This positive development was highly complimented by CITES Secretary-General. The upgraded status comes as a result of the progress made under Thailand’s National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) in regulating ivory trade in the market.

During the 69th Meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC69) in December 2017, Thailand was recognized as a country that substantially achieved NIAP process with various measures having been implemented to combat domestic illegal ivory trade through legal reform, law enforcement and international cooperation. The Standing Committee also agreed to consider whether Thailand should exit the NIAP process at SC70 to be convened in Sochi, Russia in October 2018.

Significant progress made in combating illegal trafficking of Ivory Trade by Thailand are as follows;

Legal Reform

Enforcement

Human Resources Development                

Law enforcement officers of the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has been trained on how to control the illegal Ivory Trade in various provinces across the country. Also, there’re programs to disseminate information regarding the control of illegal ivory trade in Thailand for tourism businesses, tour guides and tourists at the airports, famous tourist spots and immigration check-points.                  

Raise Awareness Campaign

The “I am #IvoryFree,” a campaign by WildAid to deter the purchase of ivory in Thailand The Campaign invited Thai public to join in showing their support by creating their own Ivory Free photo at www.ivoryfreethai.org and posting the image to their social media profiles with hashtags #IvoryFree to never buy, own or accept ivory as gifts, and an acknowledgement that ivory belongs only to elephants.

 

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2 April 2018

Division of Economic Information

Department of International Economic Affairs

Thai Courts Delivered a 9-year-and-4-month Prison Sentence for a Human Trafficking Case in the Fisheries Sector and Another 5-year Imprisonment to Government Officials Demanding Benefits from a Human Trafficking Case

30 March 2018

On 14 March 2018, the Criminal Court sentenced two defendants on charges of human trafficking on a fishing vessel to a 9-year-and-4-month period in prison. The victim was deceptively taken by an agent to work for the two defendants at the fish market, but was subsequently sent to work on board the fishing vessel “Por. Samutchai 62” which belonged to the first defendant, and where the second defendant was working as the vessel master.  While working aboard, the victim did not receive the wages as promised, and was not allowed to have enough rest and food, and thus later filed a complaint to police officers against the two defendants.

In addition, on 27 March 2018, the Criminal Court issued a 5-year imprisonment verdict on four defendants, who were former police officers, on charges of demanding benefits from the trafficking of 40 Rohingya migrants in Songkla Province, and the illegal release of the offenders in 2016. The Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission identified the case as a criminal offense and serious breach of discipline, and thereafter the Office of Special Attorney in charge of anti-corruption cases transmitted the case to the Criminal Court in March 2017. The Royal Thai Police has additionally expulsed the four police officers in this regard.  On the same day, the Prime Minister also issued an order to remove 13 other police officers from office for allegedly being involved in four cases of human trafficking, which are now under investigation for further disciplinary and criminal punishments.

The rulings in these two cases demonstrate the Royal Thai Government’s serious commitment in systematically tackling the human trafficking and issuing severe punishment to any government officials engaging in human trafficking especially in the fisheries sector.  From 2015 until now, Thai authorities have prosecuted and concluded 40 out of 85 cases of human trafficking in the fisheries sector, with the maximum imprisonment of 11 years. 

 

Meeting Between the Deputy Prime Minister and the Executive Director of the Environmental Justice Foundation

On 21 March 2018, Mr. Steve Trent, Executive Director of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) paid a courtesy call on His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan at the Ministry of Defense, and discussed Thailand’s progress in combatting illegal fishing.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit informed Mr. Trent of Thailand’s progress in tackling the IUU fishing in various dimensions, including fishing fleet management, enhancement of monitoring, control and surveillance effectiveness, law enforcement, and amendment of laws to support the preparation for Thailand’s ratification of relevant ILO conventions. He confirmed that, despite changes of government in the future, the fisheries reform in Thailand would continue under the existing legal frameworks and mechanisms already set up by the present Government. Even though the Government had to endure severe pressure from fishermen and fisheries businesses nationwide, it would remain tirelessly committed to tackling the cause of the problems. This effort had led to the stage of Thailand’s progress today. He reiterated that Thailand was ready to enhance its leading role in this matter at the regional level by sharing its experiences with other countries facing the same challenges.

Mr. Trent expressed his admiration for the Royal Thai Government’s endeavours and its progress as portrayed in a number of concrete results. He was confident that Thailand could be a good example of the country successfully solving IUU fishing for the regional and global levels.  EJF would stand ready to support Thailand in this matter to achieve its ambition to become an IUU-free country which would also pave the way towards the IUU-free ASEAN in the future.

Mr. Trent was of the view that Thailand’s efforts in the past three years have overhauled the entire fisheries sector which not only benefited Thailand directly, but also other countries in the region. Thailand’s leading role in this issue was therefore crucial. He emphasised the need of transparency to reduce the relevant costs incurred, and the engagement of all stakeholders including the fisheries industry to take part in this at the regional level.

EJF is a private organisation which plays an important role in protecting the marine environment including combatting IUU fishing.  Over the past three years, Thailand has cooperated with EJF through recommendations and technical assistance to increase effectiveness of the mechanisms set up for handling IUU fishing and labour issues in the fisheries sector. Recently, the Government has invited an EJF representative to be part of the Working Group on Labour Relations Promotion in Sea Fishing Operation, and also the other working group on drafting laws in support of the ratification of relevant ILO Conventions. 

Thailand Approved Draft Regulation for Sea Fishing Workers to Receive Monthly Wages via Bank Transfer

On 27 March 2018, the Thai Cabinet approved the draft Ministerial Regulation on Labour Protection in Sea Fishing Work (No. ...), B.E. ...., which contained important amendments to the Ministerial Regulation on Labour Protection in Sea Fishing Work B.E. 2557. The draft Ministerial Regulation requires that sea fishing workers be paid monthly wages via bank accounts and that employers who own oversea fishing vessels shall provide communication devices for fishing workers to communicate with authority concerned or family members during their time at sea.

In the previous regulation, the method of wage payment for sea fishing workers varied according to each employer. However, the new regulation requires the employers to pay the workers on a monthly basis which must not be less than daily minimum wage rate multiplied by 30 days. Moreover, the payment must be paid via bank accounts to ensure transparency and accountability, to prevent unfair wage deductions as well as to help solve the issues of delayed and inaccurate payments.

The Thai Ministry of Labour is working with commercial banks and the National Fisheries Association of Thailand to facilitate the reception of workers’ monthly wages via ATMs.  The number of ATMs at 32 Port-in Port-out (PIPO) Centres in 22 coastal provinces, fishing piers, fish markets and in fishing workers accommodation areas has increased to 80 machines, equipped with software in the native languages of the foreign workers. Apart from this, collaboration with the Bank of Thailand to set the criteria and standard for all commercial banks for the opening of bank accounts of foreign sea fishing workers is ongoing.

In addition, the Ministry of Labour has been working with the ILO to raise awareness of the workers on the new regulation of the wage payment via bank transfer by producing information via various forms of media available to foreign workers in their local languages. Three stakeholder meetings covering 22 coastal provincial areas were held to provide knowledge on labour protection law, fishing workers’ contracts and payroll accounting management to vessels owners, fisheries associations, sea fisheries businesses, and representatives of commercial banks and government agencies. The meetings attracted more than 760 participants.

Concerning the regulation on the provision of communication devices for sea fishing workers while at sea, it is one of the mechanisms that will enhance the crew’s quality of life and provide them with a channel of communication to make complaint and to be able to quickly report any problems that occurred. 

The aforemwntioned developments reflect the Thai Government’s commitment to protect workers in the fisheries sector from falling victim to forced labour and human trafficking, to improve the management of labour in Thai fisheries to be more effective and also to work toward the ratification of the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention (C188).

Thailand Boosts Up Efficiency on IUU Fishing Related Cases’ Judicial Process

The Criminal Court Issued a Fine of over 88 Million Baht in an Illegal Overseas Fishing Vessel Case

On 28 February 2018, the Criminal Court sentenced the owner of the fishing vessel “Ceribu” to pay a fine of over 88 million Baht (approximately 2.3 million Euros) on charges of taking a fishing vessel or a reefer to fish in the waters of a foreign state and the high seas without permission, and failing to bring the vessel back to port within the deadline set in the Department of Fisheries’ Notification.

The fishing vessel “Ceribu” weighing 347 gross tons fished outside the Thai waters between 19 June 2015 to 16 February 2016, and did not comply with the Department of Fisheries’ Notification issued on 25 December 2015 ordering all owners of fishing vessels, weighing 30 gross tons and above and operating outside the Thai waters, to bring the vessels back to port within 30 days from the issuance date of the Notification. Thai authorities, as the result, prosecuted the owner of the vessel.

Previously, the Criminal Court has issued sentences of hefty fines to four fishing vessels on charges of illegal overseas fishing totaling over 132 million Baht (approximately 3.5 million Euros).

Thailand and ILO Conducted Training Courses to Protect Labour in the Fisheries Sector

The Ministry of Labour of the Kingdom of Thailand and the International Labour Organization (ILO) has co-organised three capacity building training courses for labour inspectors. The first training course was carried out on 13 March 2018 in Chonburi Province where 30 labour inspectors from Bangkok and 22 coastal provinces participated. The second and third training courses are also scheduled to be held in April and May 2018 respectively.

In 2017, the Ministry of Labour together with the ILO conducted training for 90 labour inspectors from Bangkok and 22 coastal provinces. The training was a part of “Ship to Shore Rights Project”, funded by the European Union in cooperation with the ILO and the Ministry of Labour, to combat unacceptable forms of work in the Thai fishing and seafood industries. These 90 labour inspectors will also take part in the 2018 training courses to build on their expertise to advise their colleagues for more effective inspections.

In the past three years, the Thai Government has attached great importance to improve efficiency of the Thai labour inspections, especially in the fishing and seafood industries, by strengthening their capacity for preventing and detecting labour rights violation. The government has also increased the number of labour inspectors to meet the ILO standard. The number of labour inspectors increased 21 percent from 1,245 officers in 2016 to 1,506 officers in 2017 and a further new 186 labour inspectors are expected to be recruited this year.

From 19 December 2016 to 25 December 2017, the inspections and interviews of 53,508 migrant workers at 22 PIPO centers in coastal areas showed that 3,496 migrant workers were violated under the labour protection law by their employers. These cases were already concluded by the Administrative Sanction Committee. Moreover, in 2017, 358 seafood processing factories were inspected, of which 142 factories were found having violated the law. Nine factories were shut down by the Administrative Sanction Committee’s rulings.

Thailand Lifted Restrictions on Foreign Workers to Change Employers, Work Places and Types of Work

On 6 March 2018, the Thai cabinet approved the drafted amendments to the Royal Ordinance on the Management of Foreign Workers Employment B.E. 2560 (2017). The new revision aimed to facilitate better control and monitoring of the process of bringing foreign workers into Thailand, the working conditions of foreign workers and the process of obtaining jobs in Thailand as well as adjust the terms of punishment to be in line with human rights obligations.

The new revision emphasises on the use of notification system where appropriate, instead of the permission system. This change facilitates both the employers and the employees, encompassing changes of employers, work places, types of work and the hiring of documented foreign workers, without having to request for permissions from the authority concerned. Apart from this, the drafted amendments also remove restrictions on the accommodation zoning of foreign workers.

On the terms of punishment, the drafted amendments reduce the cap on maximum fine and remove the imprisonment term on foreign workers who work without work permits. The employers who hire undocumented foreign workers will also face a fine of 10,000 – 100,000 Baht per employee. A repeated offence committed by the same employer will result in an imprisonment term of up to 1 year and/or a fine of 50,000 – 200,000 Baht per employee. The said employer will also be prohibited from hiring foreign workers for 3 years.

In addition, the drafted amendments have set additional measures to protect workers and to ensure transparency of recruitment agencies and employers; for example, licensees (brokers/recruitment agencies) are required to have pre-contracts from the employers before bringing foreign workers into the country, and employers are prohibited from collecting fees from foreign workers, except for passport issuing, health check-up, and work permit fees, all of which have fixed rates endorsed by the Government.

On the same occasion, the cabinet also approved drafted amendments to the Immigration Act, B.E. 2522 (1979) to allow foreign workers to work as labourers or to be hired to do physical work and unskilled work.

Prior to the proposed drafted amendments, public hearings were attended by all stakeholders including employers, employees, civil societies and international organisations as well as government agencies in order to revise the existing legislation and to promote closer cooperation for a better management of the employment of foreign workers in Thailand.