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Fishermen abuse and slavery cases solved “off-the-record”

Caitlin Ashworth

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Fishermen abuse and slavery cases solved “off-the-record” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

Many cases of alleged abuse and slavery at sea are not being reported to the Thailand government. The Thomson Reuters Foundation did an analysis on the claims of slavery and abuse on Thai fishing boats and found that the majority of complaints are not documented with labour ministry officials who solve issues “off-the-record”.

Many fisherman agree to mediation because they don’t want to waste time if the case goes to court, Suwanee Dolah from Raks Thai Foundation, a non-profit focusing on a variety of humanitarian and supports fishermen, mostly from Cambodia and Myanmar. Employers would rather not have a large number of complaints, Dolah says. One labour ministry official explained to Reuters that they encourage the employer and employee to mediate before submitting a complaint, if the case is minor.

Reuters obtained labour abuse complaints from 289 fishing workers lodged between 2o15 and 2020. Nothing was documented on the outcomes. Some fishermen seek help from charities rather than the government. Since 2015, charities have been helping out around 1,600 fishermen solve problems with their employer involving payment and abuse, according to Reuters.

Although complaints are supposedly getting resolved, a lawyer specialising in human trafficking told Reuters that labour inspectors tend to support the employers rather than the workers. He added that many workers are afraid of taking legal action.

“If the cycle of violations kept in the dark and solved one-on-one goes on without punishment, some say the employers may keep abusing the employees…. it will cause a never-ending cycle of rights violations.”

SOURCE: Reuters

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

Crime

Cambodian dog slaughterhouse shut down, owner says he is “ashamed”

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Cambodian dog slaughterhouse shut down, owner says he is “ashamed” | The Thaiger

After increasing calls to end the dog meat trade, a Cambodian slaughterhouse is shutting down, with its owner saying he is “ashamed.” Ouk Mol, the owner, says the dog slaughterhouse has killed more than a million dogs since opening in 1995.

According to Four Paws animal rights group, Cambodia slaughters between 2 to 3 million dogs per year, while offering the cheap meal of protein at more than 100 dog meat restaurants in Phnom Penh, its capital.

Mol’s slaughterhouse is responsible for all the supply to Phnom Penh, but he says he will no longer be killing dogs, citing increasing pressure from animal rights groups and civilians alike. The 50 year old former soldier says he feels ashamed.

“But I want to quit the business because I am getting old and a lot of people have criticised me about the dog meat trade.”

The operator was offered financial support from Four Paws to open a grocery store if they shut down their slaughterhouse with Ouk Mol’s wife, Sao Phally, saying she is glad they have found a way out of the business.

“We were always worried about sin because of our killing. People looked at us in a bad way.”

The slaughterhouse, which uses vats to drown the dogs, and blowtorches to remove their fur, slaughtered up to 200 dogs per day. Now, as of yesterday, the company has shut down, with the remainder of dogs being sent to animal charities for rehabilitation and placed for international adoption.

Phnom Penh is the 2nd city in Cambodia to follow increasing calls to close the dog meat trade, as Siem Reap banned the trade last year in a victory for animal rights groups. Until 2020, Siem Reap, Cambodia’s largest tourist city, was known by rights groups as the “lynchpin” of the trade.

Despite Cambodia’s efforts to begin closing down its dog meat trade, it is not the only Asian country that features dog meat as a cuisine. Consuming dog meat in Vietnam is more popular than in Cambodia, which shows the industry has a long way to go with regards to respecting animal rights.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Thailand

Migrant workers risk losing their legal status, the Cabinet to extend work permit amnesty

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Migrant workers risk losing their legal status, the Cabinet to extend work permit amnesty | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Frontier Myanmar

Over 1.7 million migrant workers in Thailand are going to lose their legal working status because they can’t submit work permit renewal and a health certificate with Covid-19 test results in time. The Labour Ministry then proposes the cabinet will extend the registration period (amnesty) for migrant workers to help maintain their legal status. Migrant workers, including those illegal and unemployed workers, are required to register with authorities via the ministry’s website from January 15 until February 13.

According to the Labour Minister, every migrant worker to renew their work permit must receive a Covid-19 test at hospitals designated by the Public Health Ministry. The Department of Medical Sciences will be responsible for the testing costs.

Illegal and unemployed workers, who registered with the Ministry, will be allowed to stay in the Kingdom for 2 years without penalties. Only those migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are allowed to overstay their current visas, but are required to register with the provincial employment office in the area they work, as part of the amnesty.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Environment

Laos – the ‘battery’ of Asia and a ticking environmental time bomb

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Laos – the ‘battery’ of Asia and a ticking environmental time bomb | The Thaiger

LAOS POWER FACTS:

Number of power plants soon to be completed by the end of 2020: 53 hydropower plants under construction or in the planning stage, including those set to be completed this year; there will be more than 90 hydropower plants in Laos with a combined installed capacity of almost 14,000MW.

Transmission lines that connect with neighbouring countries: 14 carry power to Thailand, 2 to Vietnam, 1 to China, 2 to Cambodia, and 1 to Myanmar.

Trick question. What uses more power? Siam Paragon in Bangkok or the entire province of Mae Hong Son (with 250,000 residents in north-west Thailand)?

The astonishing answer is, of course, Siam Paragon. By a factor of DOUBLE the power consumption of the north-western Thai province near the Myanmar border. Siam Paragon consumes 123 GWh of electricity a year (in 2011), compared to the quarter-million inhabitants of Mae Hong Son Province, who over the same period, used 65 GWh.

So, whilst you trek across some ancient hills enjoying an old and proud culture in Thailand’s north-west you need to compare that with some of the opulent malls in central Bangkok which can easily compare with their counterparts in Singapore, New York or London.

The worlds of luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Tiffany and Cartier, and the power these shops consume, is an entirely different world from other parts of rural Thailand. But Siam Paragon is just one of half a dozen luxury malls sprawled along a 6 kilometre stretch of the city’s upscale Sukhumvit stretch. They all consume vast amounts of power along with a growing number of expensive condominium projects.

So, Thailand has turned to Laos and the hydro-electric potential along the Mekong to feed its growing electricity demand. Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, currently under construction, are among the cornerstones of a dam-building bonanza by Laos to realise its aspiration to become the “Battery of Asia”. Thailand is one of Laos’ key partners and buyers of power. And the kingdom’s largest energy consumer is (no surprise here) Bangkok, with it’s sparkling lights and air-conditioning ticking over the electricity meters at rapid pace.

Many analysts worry the planned hydropower dams will devastate fish populations, harm agriculture and hurt culture and tourism along the fragile Mekong basin, threatening the livelihoods of 65 million people who rely on the river for income and food.

With 42 power plants now operational, Laos is poised to realise its electricity ambitions. With a current installed capacity of approximately 6,000MW, the Lao government expects to achieve 14,000MW by the end of this year.

Thailand is not on its own with massive development and expansion putting pressure on the older ways of life. But the disparity in the Kingdom between the power-hungry city life and the older-style agriculture is now sharply in focus with this new deal with the Laos power providers.

But a devastating collapse at a hydro dam in July 2018 shon the spotlight on Laos’ energy ambitions again. The devastation caused by the collapse of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam in Attapeu province was sharp proof of the potential dangers in the Laotian government’s plans. The landlocked country sells much of its electricity abroad, which makes up 30-40% of its total exports.

The Lao PDR government is planning to double current energy production in the next 2 years. But environmental groups are warning of the project’s impact on the environment and the nations the river supports.

The movement of water, fish and sediment downstream has historically supported tens of millions of people along the Mekong, and efforts to constrain its flow are proving disastrous for the riverside communities.

For nearly 20 years, activists have called for action against the development of hydro-dams and water projects. But this month the campaign took the next step with plans to focus on taking action at the policy level.

It took 2 decades, but activists have now launched the “Mekong People’s Forum.” 200 people attended the forum including local villagers, conservationists, journalists, and representatives from the US and Australian embassies. The Chinese embassy, although invited, did not send anyone to attend the event. China is responsible for 11 dams along the Mekong.

This is the first time the many conservation groups and activists have come together with a single forum to tackle the many challenges for the river. Several dams have now been built upstream in Laos and China causing massive problems for the natural flow of the river downstream through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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