BANGKOK: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) yesterday warned of “serious abuses” in the Thai fishing industry — a major global supplier — such as forced labour and violence.
About 17 percent of the mainly undocumented Myanmar and Cambodian fishermen surveyed by the ILO were forced to work under threat of financial penalty, violence or denunciation to the authorities, the UN agency said.
Thailand — the world’s third largest fish exporter by value, with sales worth around $7bn a year — is under international pressure to respond to reports of fishermen forced to work as virtual slaves under brutal conditions.
“This study does find serious abuses within the sector. The vast majority of workers were in irregular status and thus more vulnerable to exploitation,” said ILO senior programme officer Max Tunon.
While 10 percent of respondents reported being severely beaten on board boats, more than a quarter said they worked or were on call between 17 and 24 hours a day.
The average wage was 6,483 baht ($200) a month among the sample of 596 people, while only one of the migrant fishermen had a work permit.
The survey found seven children under 15 years old, and 26 teenagers aged 15-17.
Conditions for fishermen on long-haul vessels were worse than for those who regularly returned to shore, the survey found, with a quarter reporting having been deceived or coerced into working at sea.
The ILO said an estimated 50,000 shortfall in the number of fishermen required by the industry was “both a cause and an effect of the abusive labour practices” in the sector.