Wednesday, April 22, 2015

22/04/2015: US ignores own law to allow imports of Thai fish caught by slaves

In its first report on trafficking around the world, the US criticised Thailand as a hub for labour abuse. Yet 14 years later, seafood caught by slaves on Thai boats is still slipping into the supply chains of major American stores and supermarkets, The Bangkok Post reports.

The US has not enforced a law banning the import of goods made with forced labour since 2000 because of significant loopholes, The Associated Press has found. It has also spared Thailand from sanctions slapped on other countries with weak records in human trafficking because of a complex political relationship that includes cooperation against terrorism.

The question of how to deal with Thailand and labour abuse will come up at a congressional hearing Wednesday, in light of an AP investigation that found hundreds of men beaten, starved, forced to work with little or no pay and even held in a cage on the remote island village of Benjina.
When is someone going to actually do something?
The captains on most of the boats based on the island are Thai. While officials at federal agencies would not directly answer why the law and sanctions are not applied, they pointed out that the US State Department last year blacklisted Thailand as among the worst offenders in its report on trafficking in people worldwide.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said the plight of about 4000 forced labourers in Thailand's seafood industry can no longer go unheeded.

"There have been problems with systematic and pervasive human trafficking in Thailand's fishing fleets for more than a decade, but Washington has evidently considered it too hard to find out exactly what was happening and is not taking action to stop it," he said.

"No one can claim ignorance anymore. This is a test case for Washington as much as Bangkok."

Read more HERE.

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