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Thailand’s Junta Cries Foul Over Damaging Seafood Report by the Associated Press



Government Spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd

Government Spokesman Maj Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd speaks to the press in Bangkok



BANGKOK – Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Maj Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd told reporters Saturday that the recent Associated Press report on slavery in the Thai seafood industry is “extremely irresponsible” and could cause misunderstandings .

Maj Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the report has given the impression that Thailand uses slave labor extensively and aimed to fan negative sentiment against Thai products, especially frozen shrimp, which it said were peeled by slave labor.

“This is a one-sided, extremely irresponsible report. It has tarnished Thailand’s image even as the government is seriously cracking down on illegal and slave workers, especially in the seafood industry. We’re determined to do so until the problem is solved,” said Maj Gen Sansern.

The exposure of wrongdoing does not mean Thailand sanctions the use of slave labour, he continued. “On the contrary, we’re taking action against all illegal workers in Thailand.”

Revelations of human trafficking, illegal labour and malpractice in the fishing industry have been mounting over the past year. Policymakers have been moving to carry out major reforms and step up enforcement to avoid trade sanctions and a potentially serious impact on the economy.

Thai Union Group Plc, one of the world’s largest seafood producers, this week called the AP report “another wake-up call for the industry”. It immediately announced plans to stop using subcontractors and move all shrimp-peeling operations in-house to ensure that all workers are treated fairly.

Maj Gen Sansern added that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had ordered strict action taken against all wrongdoers — from operators and workers to officials involved — to root out the problem.

Meanwhile, since the damaging Associated Press report,the military deployed troops on Friday to support government efforts to crack down on forced labour and human trafficking in the fishing industry nationwide.

National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree said the Department of Special Investigation, along with police, soldiers and local authorities raided a shrimp-peeling shed in Samut Sakhon’s Muang district after a Myanmar worker who managed to escape alerted them of terrible working conditions.

After the AP report, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appointed deputy national police chief Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul to lead operations to clamp down on slave labour in the fishing industry.

Col Winthai said the Maintaining Force will intensify inspections. The NCPO feels the need to take tough action so these operators do not ruin the reputation of the industry as a whole, he said.

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