SATUL — Marine police in Satul province inspected fishing boats manned by Burmese workers today to look for potential human traffickers and drug use.
The inspection was overseen by Prayoon Rattanasenee, deputy governor of Satul, and carried out by a combined force of police officers, Royal Thai Navy servicemen, and social workers.
The officials selected fishing boats at random off of Thailand’s western coast and boarded them to inspect their crews. According to Mr. Prayoon, the inspection found no breach of laws on any of the boats.
Mr. Prayoon told Khaosod that the officials want to ensure the welfare and safety of workers on Thai fishing boats, especially migrant workers.
"Many agencies in Satul are enforcing strict measures to monitor the condition of workers' lives, food, residences," Mr. Prayoon said. "We are also working to root out the human trafficking network in the fishing industry. It's a major problem in Satul province."
The search came after a series of events have brought Thailand's weak record of combating human trafficking into global spotlight. Earlier this month, the British newspaper The Guardian revealed that more than 200,000 Burmese migrants are trafficked into Thailand to work as slaves in the Thai seafood and fishing industry. According to the investigative report, thousands of Burmese migrants pay brokers to help them cross the border and find work in Thailand, but are instead sold on to "slave vessels" and subject to deplorable working conditions and abuse.
Days later, Thailand incurred a fresh wave of criticsim from human rights groups after it was the only country to vote against a U.N. treaty requiring countries to punish perpetrators of forced labor.
Before reversing its decision, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country voted against the protocol because “Thailand has to seriously consider her own readiness to implement such an instrument, in conformity with relevant Thai laws.”
After a week of bad press, Thai officials are now bracing themselves for another blow. The US State Department is set to release its annual human Trafficking in Persons report (TIP) on Friday, and Thailand is expected to drop down to the lowest rank. If Thailand is downgraded to Tier 3, it may face economic sanctions and the withdrawal of financial aid.
In the past week, over 200,000 Cambodians have fled Thailand out of fear that the Thai military regime is preparing to crackdown on migrant workers.
However, deputy governor of Satul Mr. Prayoon said he has not received any reports of migrant workers in Satul heading back to their home countries. Most of the migrant workers in Satul are from Myanmar, not Cambodia.
Mr. Prayoon also urged operators of fishing boats in Satul who have not legally registered their migrant workers to do so in the near future.