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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8916
    JPY
    USD
    109.40
    GBP
    USD
    0.6905
    CAD
    USD
    1.3147
    INR
    USD
    67.522

    Rates may not be current.