News / Economy

Activists Skeptical of Thai Food Companies Labor Pledges

Female workers hold signs as they gather to mark International Women's Day outside the United Nations building in Bangkok, (File photo).
Female workers hold signs as they gather to mark International Women's Day outside the United Nations building in Bangkok, (File photo).
Ron Corben
More than 100 Thai companies in the country’s massive frozen seafood industry have agreed to better protect workers from abuses such as child labor and discrimination. Rights activists remain skeptical the protections will lead to substantive changes in an industry already under scrutiny by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department.

Thailand's frozen seafood industry employs some one million workers with exports valued at $6.5 billion a year. But it has long been accused of abusive working conditions for the Cambodian and Burmese migrant workers who make up the bulk of its labor force.

This week’s agreement by the Thai Frozen Foods Association includes pledges from 130 companies who signed a memorandum of understanding to adopt good labor practices.

Association executives say the agreement aims to offer protection to workers against child labor, workplace discrimination, forced labor and substandard working conditions.

Executives said international scrutiny over the industries' labor practices led to the agreement, which offers guidelines on work practices.

Sinapan Samydorai, a convener with the Singapore-based Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers, said the agreement is welcome, but enforcement remains an issue. "I'm quite happy to hear this but being an MOU [memorandum of understanding] more important is the actual implementation of this in practice. How do they verify," Samydorai questioned. "You know, how this could be eliminated in the seafood sector in the frozen seafood sector? So basically, who is going to monitor this new development to implement this MOU?"

The U.N.'s International Labor Organization (ILO) has been pressing the region to adopt improved labor standards, especially those focused on child workers and migrant labor.

The ILO said in the Asia Pacific region there are still an estimated 113 million child laborers in the five to 17 year old age group.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, said the industry still has much work to do to recognize the rights of migrants and other workers.

"There's a very, very wide disparity between the sort of rhetoric we're hearing from various corporate social responsibility types and the heads of these businesses who are claiming they are going to clean up their supply chain in the actual actions on the ground. Enforcement of laws is the responsibility of the government and the Thai Government has failed to implement even the most rudimentary regulations for the Thai fishing industry," Robertson said.

The U.S. supermarket operator Walmart was challenged earlier this year after investigations found a number of serious violations of Thai law and labor rights standards at a Thai shrimp processing plant.

The Thai industry agreement comes as the country faces pressure from the U.S. State Department to improve labor standards or face a downgrade under the U.S. Tier 2 watch list of goods produced by children or forced labor. At the Tier 3 listing, Thailand could face trade and other sanctions.

Studies undertaken by the U.N.'s Interagency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) found forced labor conditions for Burmese migrant workers in the Thai seafood industry, and debt bondage among Cambodian and Burmese workers recruited onto Thai fishing vessels.

Reports said an increasing number of Cambodian and Burmese workers are now reluctant to work in the Thai fishing industry due to dangerous working conditions.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9012
JPY
USD
122.90
GBP
USD
0.6400
CAD
USD
1.2582
INR
USD
63.438

Rates may not be current.