Joint press briefing on the situation on human trafficking and forced labor in Thailand

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Press Release on 27 June 2014, M.L. Puntarik Smiti, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labor, Mr. Songsak Saicheua, Director General of the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs and Mr. Poj Aramwattana, President of Thai Frozen Foods Association briefed the press on the progress in explaining the situation on human trafficking and forced labor in Thailand. Gist as follows:

The Director General of the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs informed that after the release of the US State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Person (TIP) Report placing Thailand in Tier 3, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has proceeded as follows:

  1. The Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs held a press conference on 21 June 2014, expressing Thailand’s deep disappointment and disagreement with the U.S. State Department's decision despite the fact that Thailand has made significant progress in many areas in combating trafficking in persons. Thailand has extended its full cooperation with every relevant U.S. agencies in order to verify the correct information and clarify every aspect of the issue. Thailand’s action to fight against human trafficking is not merely to serve TIP report but it is a part of the country’s national agenda and the right thing to do in accordance with universal humanitarian and human rights principles.
  2. On 25 June 2014. The Permanent Secretary submitted an official letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, reaffirming Thailand’s stance.
  3. The Royal Thai Embassy in Washington D.C. will send official letters explaining Thailand’s position to senators and Congressmen, particularly those who are members of Friend of Thailand Caucus.
  4. The Thai Ambassador to the United States has called on Mr. Scot Marciel, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, to reiterate Thailand’s disappointment and disagreement on the assessment made by the United States. The Embassy is also due to meet with Mr. Luis Cdebaca, Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the TIP Office.
  5. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed Royal Thai Embassies and Royal Thai Consulates in the U.S. and Europe to closely monitor media reports and any information distributed by the public sector, NGOs, etc. in their respective jurisdictions. Furthermore, the Embassies and Consulates are to evaluate impacts on Thai products as well as to meet with key figures from public sector, legislative branch, large buyers, media and NGOs to promote better understanding of the issue.
  6. The Director-General of the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs was updated by the chairman of National Fisheries Institute (NFI) on NFI’s meeting with 8 large retail buyers and the buyers’ position on a report by The Guardian newspaper. All eight buyers reaffirmed they will not stop purchasing goods from Thailand and would like to see concrete development and progress being made in combating human trafficking and unfair treatment of laborers. The buyers have expressed their desire to cooperate with the Thai government and producers to pinpoint existing problems. Moreover, the group has voiced its concerns over unfair treatment of labor and illegal conducts which happened on fishing boats particularly the impacts these conducts will have once the media report on these issues.

Additionally, the Director-General of the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs denied the rumor that Whole Foods company cancelled an order from CP Group which was an attempted to put more pressure on consumers.

Deputy Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Labor briefed about the work of the Policy Committee on Foreign Workers chaired by Deputy Chief of National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO). She reiterated the will of Thai government to combat against human trafficking, forced labor and child labor. NCPO is preparing to improve and adjust related rules and procedures to facilitate the working process. Currently, the Ministry of Labor and relevant agencies are on the process of reviewing measures in tackling the problem of forced child labor, including a proposal to increase minimum age of the workers from sixteen to eighteen. To increase confidence among Thai shrimp and seafood buyers, there has been cooperation among the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare, the Department of Fisheries and International Labor Organization (ILO) to ensure that companies in the industry comply with Good Labor Practice (GLP). The system of monitoring the consumer’s confidence will also be set up. In case of the problematic goods list concerning child labor, the Thai government will work on operation plan towards the child labor reduction in the future.

President of Thai Frozen Foods Association stressed the need to organize the labor system. He also reaffirmed buyer’s confidence in Thai seafood products and there was no order cancellation.Walmart, one of the major buyers, remains confident in Thai products. Regarding the removal of Thai products from the U.S. Department of Labor’s list of Goods produced by child labor or forced labor, he believed that there is high possibility for sugar cane to be removed from the said list.

 

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                                                                                      27 June 2014