ILO SEA Fisheries project held “Thailand National Consultation on Strengthening Regional Coordination to Combat Labour Exploitation and Trafficking in Fisheries” on 21 June 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand. This consultation is a continuation of Regional Consultation on the same issue previously held on 27-28 March 2018 in Bali.
The National Consultation is a multi-stakeholder meeting, with participants from the Thai Government, workers’ organization, employers and NGOs/CSOs. The objective was to consult with stakeholders on the design and establishment of a Regional Coordination Body mandated to support ongoing anti-trafficking in persons initiatives and address labour exploitation in the fisheries sector. The conclusions and recommendations collected from this National Consultation will feed into the Regional Conference to be held in November 2018. The 45 participants consist of representatives from 22 government agencies, workers’ organizations, employers’organization, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
Mr. Somsak Apiwantanakul, Assistant Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour (MOL), thanked the ILO for its close coordination and support through the Ship to Shore Rights Project, in strengthening the capacities of the Ministry both at the technical and implementation level to address forced labour and labour rights violations in the sea fisheries sector. The fisheries sector employs more than 350,000 workers, 85percent of whom are migrant workers, and who are vulnerable to labour exploitation. In the past 3- 4 years the MOL has adopted various efforts to improve the protection of migrant workers in Thailand through launching a database of migrant workers; drafting an Anti-Forced Labour Act to comply with the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention (P29). Thailand is also working towards ratification of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188) by September 2018 and currently is expediting processes to ensure that national legislation is consistent with C188. For the protection of migrant workers, the MOL is working continuously to improve working and living conditions, and access to complaint mechanisms.
The panel discussion, “Existing efforts in Thailand and Southeast Asia on fisheries management and combatting trafficking in persons: challenges and gaps”, was moderated by Mr. Jason Judd, Project Manager and Chief Technical Officer of the Ship to Shore Rights Project, ILO Thailand. The panelists included are:
• Mr. Bunchong Chumnongsittathum, Deputy Director General of the Department of Fisheries
• Dr. Jacob Hagberg, International Fisheries Policy Expert, SEAFDEC
• Ms. Supavadee Chotikajan, National Project Coordinator, Ship to Shore Rights Project
• Ms. Dana Graber Ladek, Chief of Mission, IOM Thailand
• Mr. Michael Odgers, Co-Manager of Regional Support Office of the Bali Process
• Mr. Paul Buckley, Regional Technical Coordinator of the UN-ACT.
The panelists presented on existing Thai and regional efforts to combat trafficking in persons as well as fisheries management. Together, the panelists also identified gaps in coordination in Southeast Asia on combatting trafficking for forced labour in fisheries Dr. Mi Zhou gave an overview of the Proposed Design Document for the RCB, focusing on the 12-paragraph summary of the design and referencing the full document which was sent to participants prior to the National Consultation. Dr. Zhou highlighted the multistakeholder nature of the RCB, the focus, and the opportunities for members from various sectors to work on specific issues through working partnerships.
She explained some of the considerations that informed the proposed design, and emphasized the balances that need to be achieved in the design. In three groups, the participants were assigned to discuss the text of the Draft Design Proposal. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups to encourage discussions of the Design Proposal beyond ILO’s tripartite constituency groups. Each group had a mix of representatives from the government, workers’ and/or employers’ organizations, NGO/CSOs, and regional/international organizations.
Learning from the various insights and experiences shared in Bali Regional Meeting, the participants had given valuable inputs particularly regarding the structure and mandate of the proposed Regional Coordination Body. All inputs gained in this National Consultation will act as feed for Regional Conference to be held later this year on 26-29 November 2018.