Thai officials warn prisons over forced fishing net labour

Following a December investigation by Thomson Reuters Foundation about abuse of Thai prisoners forced to make fishing nets, officials are warning prisons. The investigation found that prison guards beat prisoners who didn’t meet certain targets, and disallowed them to shower. Prisoners were also not paid minimum wage, and sometimes not paid at all. In February, 31 Thai and international rights groups petitioned for the United States to halt the purchase of nets made by two major companies that relied on Thai prison labour.

Now, Thailand’s Department of Corrections has sent letters to 143 prisons calling on them to stop fishing net production, and all other jobs that don’t improve prisoners’ work skills. All prisons must now declare they have stopped forcing prisoners to work for low pay. They must also obey UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. From now on, prisoners can choose what type of training they get, provided by the corrections department and the Labour Ministry.

There are about 260,000 prisoners in Thailand.

The two companies rights groups called the United States to halt purchases from are Khon Kaen Fishing Net, and Dechapanich Fishing Net. KKF said it would cut ties with any prisons found using forced labour. A KKF official told Reuters he feared a United States ban would cause job losses in Thailand. He said there might only be one or two prisons that acted inappropriately, and the company has asked Thailand’s Corrections Department to come up with a standard pay rate for net making prisoners.

Dechapanich did not respond to Reuters’s multiple requests for comment.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Reuters

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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