Thailand’s notorious fishing industry relies heavily on migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia who are typically poorly paid and badly treated, with allegations that many of the crew have been trafficked and used as slave labour.
On June 20 this year, the US released its Trafficking in Persons report which downgraded Thailand from Tier 2 to Tier 3, the lowest level where it is on par with 23 other countries, for its lack of progress in combating human trafficking, according to the newspaper.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth, who leads the military government in Bangkok, has called for more stringent law enforcement, including long-term strategies to deal with the abuses in the industry.
Observers believe it will be difficult to push the country up from Tier 3 to Tier 2 on the US watch list by the time the next report is filed in June next year, as little progress has been made to tackle the problem.
Thailand serves as a point of origin, destination and transit for human trafficking and the fishing industry has been criticized for its treatment of migrant workers.
Some crews on Thai fishing trawlers are forced to stay on board for several years with minimal pay, according to the report. They work up to 20 hours a day and seven days a week. Some are threatened and assaulted.
As a result of the downgrade, some importers of Thai fishery products in the EU have pulled them off the shelves. The US could also exert pressure on international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank not to lend to Thailand.