BANGKOK – Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has vowed to punish fishing operators and put them out of business if they are found to have violated Thai laws and abuse workers in ways that jeopardize Thai exports worth hundreds of billions of baht a year.
Gen Prayut said companies that carry out illegal fishing in the waters of other countries and use trafficked workers must be punished and have no more opportunities to do any business in the country.
“If such abuses of fellow humans continue, I will instruct that [these companies] should not be allowed to do any business any longer in Thailand and they must be punished, the people who do wrong in this area must repent. They have done this for a long time, for many years, and past administrations were never able to cope,” he said.
“This government will deal with you. Do not blame me for being cruel. How can you take advantage of other people? Some operators are incredibly rich and have dozens of boats. It is time to abide by the law.”
According to the Bangkok Post, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha stressed that his government was now acting on several fronts to try to clean up the fishery industry. It has sent officials to help Thai crewmen arrested in Indonesia, he said.
Gen Prayut proposed that Thailand should form fishery joint ventures with neighboring countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei and Cambodia to end conflicts, curb the arrests of fishing crews and end unhealthy competition.
The government has been galvanised into action by a series of media reports showing the scale of abuse and corruption in the fishery industry is far greater than many people believed.
Earlier this week Gen Prayut had vented his anger at a Channel 3 television reporter for her coverage of the plight of Thai fishermen held as slaves in Indonesia. He asked her if she would take personal responsibility for financial damage to the fishery industry.
A day later The Associated Press released its report of a year-long investigation documenting the same shocking conditions Channel 3 had reported. The Associated Press report was seen all over the world and led to calls in the US Congress, among other places for further investigations of the fishery industry in Southeast Asia.
By Thursday evening Gen Prayut was taking a much more conciliatory tone, acknowledging that he had seen the AP report and thanking the media for bringing the issue to public attention.