State Department: Thai Fishing Vessels Still Using Forced Labor

Image courtesy of tjean314

It’s been almost three years since activists first drew the world’s attention to the conditions on fishing boats out of Thailand, where migrant workers recruited from poorer Asian countries work under terrible conditions. Last year, two huge pieces of investigative journalism told their stories and reminded us that it’s still happening, and consumers sued companies like Nestle and Costco for selling seafood produced under these conditions to unwitting customers. That means that this situation has been fixed, right? Not really, the U.S. Department of State tells us.

In their annual report about human rights practices around the world for 2015, the Department of State notes that Thailand updated many of its labor and human trafficking laws, which included protections for whistleblowers. Human traffickers, in the fishing industry and elsewhere, were arrested and punished, but the definition of “forced labor” and “debt bondage” is still fuzzy in practice in Thailand, and reports of workers in bondage continue.

According to reports, men and boys from neighboring countries sign on with labor brokers, who don’t tell them that they will be kept on a boat, sometimes for years on end, and forced to catch fish that will end up fed to farmed shrimp or American cats.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Thailand [State Department]
US: Forced labor continues on Thai fishing vessels [AP]

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