Thai Junta Denies Allegations of Slave Labor in the Shrimp Industry
BANGKOK – Thai Junta spokesman Maj Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd has told the media that the recent report by AP news agency that slave-like labor conditions in the shrimp industry were tolerated by Thai authorities was not true, insisting serious efforts were being made to end labor abuse and asking for fair reporting by the media.
Maj Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, denied the report by the Associated Press on Dec 13 and 14 that authorities tolerated forced labor at shrimp-peeling sheds and that Thailand became one of the biggest shrimp-exporting countries because of the low costs resulting from labor abuse.
Since the National Council for Peace and Order took over the national administration, government officials, local officials, soldiers and police involved in human trafficking had been punished, he said. Thailand was one of the leading shrimp exporters not only because of low production costs, but also because of the quality and freshness of the shrimps.
The experiences of a Myanmar couple cited by the AP report was not representative of the conditions for all workers. The government was taking care of 3 million foreign workers, and the news agency found the couple as its reporter followed officials who were helping abused workers, Maj Gen Sansern told the Bangkok Post.
Vice Adm Jumpol Lumikanont, deputy secretary-general of the navy, told the press briefing at Government House that the photos in the AP report had been taken on Nov 9, when authorities were tackling labor abuse, but the report claimed authorities were lenient towards slave-like conditions and illegal detention
He said that in using a picture of workers in a cell, the report seemed to communicate the idea that workers were detained, but actually officials were in the process of sorting out which workers were illegal immigrants.
An operation to suppress abuse of labor started on Nov 9, and 101 of 125 targeted factories had been inspected, and the number of factories with labor abuse reduced, Vice Adm Jumpol said.
“I ask for fair treatment for officials, who are working both on land and at sea. Our work is integrated… Please do not exaggerate part of a report and photographs in the wrong way,” he said.
Pol Maj Gen Kornchai Khlaikhlueng said many victims were rescued in the operation on Nov 9, the factory was closed, rescued people received rightful care and wrongdoers were arrested and faced legal action.
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