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Chutima Sidasathian (right)  is greeted at Government House today

Phuketwan Case Reaches PM's Office Amid Thailand Trafficking Report Update

Friday, January 23, 2015
PHUKET: A journalist from Phuket will accompany human rights lawyers to the Prime Minister's office in Bangkok today to deliver a letter calling on the Royal Thai Navy to end its court action against Phuketwan.

Reporter Chutima Sidasathian has been talking to interested parties on a visit to the Thai capital.

She and her Australian colleague Alan Morison face possible long jail terms under a suit for criminal defamation and a Computer Crimes Act charge.

The action, over one paragraph republished word for word from a Pulitzer Prize winning series by Reuters' news agency journalists, has been strongly criticised by human rights bodies and UN and European Union authorities.

The action by the Navy - initiated before the military takeover of Thailand on May 22 last year - was also criticised in the US State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons report that lowered Thailand to Tier 3, the lowest level.

Phuketwan has won international praise for its seven-year reporting of the Rohingya exodus from Burma and particularly the treatment of boatpeople in Thailand.

Khun Chutima said today: ''The case is damaging for Phuketwan, for the Royal Thai Navy and for Thailand. We did nothing to deserve this heavy-handed treatment. We would welcome any move to exonerate us.''

She and the delegation of human rights lawyers were due at Government House at 10am.

The Computer Crimes Act has also been condemned for its use by expat villains in Thailand to contain investigations by veteran journalist Andrew Drummond and in the case of human rights defender and workers' advocate Andy Hall, who is being sued for millions of dollars by a pineapple processor.

With the 2015 Trafficking in Persons report now being prepared, Thailand is arguing that improvements in human trafficking mean it should be lifted from Tier 3. As well as Thailand's approach to boatpeople, abuses cited in the fishing industry and in factories relying on migrant labor are being closely examined.

Two media releases came yesterday - one from the Thai Embassy in Washington and the other from a large group of NGOs.

Press Release: 'Thailand will not recruit prisoners to work on fishing vessels'

IN RESPONSE to reports by the media regarding official plans to recruit prisoners to work on fishing vessels, the Thai Government has confirmed that the idea, which was initially mooted as part of a policy directive to help former convicts find employment and integrate into society after serving their sentences, has not been and will not be implemented.

On 16 January 2015, Mr. Sek Wannamethee, Director-General of the Department of Information, as a member of the Sub-committee on public relations and laws under the National Policy Committee to address the problems of human trafficking and illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUU), gave a press conference regarding reports by the media on official plans to recruit prisoners to work on fishing vessels as follows:

1. The subcommittee has been informed by the responsible government agency that, after having sought comments from the private sector in the fishery industry, the mooted idea to let prisoners work on fishing vessels has not been and will not be implemented.

2. The exploratory idea was in response to a broader social policy directive to ''Return Good Men to the Society,'' which aims to provide career training for prisoners. The policy directive aims to help former convicts reintegrate into society with honor and dignity through skill development and jobs in various industries.

3. Thailand is taking great strides forward in multi-faceted reforms, including combatting human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery. Thailand fully affirms her commitment to uphold national and international obligations to promote and protect human rights.

Regarding the policy directive of career training for prisoners, the following considerations are taken into account:

.. Participation is strictly on a voluntary basis. Contracts are mandatory for participants so as to benefit fully from available labour rights and protection.

.. Employment through the scheme fully complies with all related labor laws.

Statement by NGOs


THE GOVERNMENT of Thailand announced last week that it will scrap a proposed project to recruit prisoners to work on Thai fishing boats.

The announcement came after 45 labor and human rights groups that raised concerns about the program in a letter on January 14.

This coalition of interested organisations welcomes the Thai government's decision, and the statement's focus on addressing human trafficking.

We hope this marks a shift in approach by the Thai government to operate in a truly consultative manner to solve the fishing industry's serious human trafficking problem, working in close consultation with the workers, employers, unions, NGOs and other stakeholders on building effective implementation of labor rights protections in its fishing fleet.

Thailand still has much work to do to improve working conditions in the fishing industry.

The legal and enforcement gaps cited in the letter are still of great concern. The recently amended ministerial regulation 10 to the Labor Protection Act is a good step forward, for which all actors in government and industry should be commended.

But more needs to be done. Legislative changes alone will not succeed without much stronger enforcement and focus on ensuring the rule of law in both migration policy and on fishing boats.

We encourage the Thai government to engage in a genuine stakeholder dialogue to devise and implement needed improvements to enforcement mechanisms and additional legal reforms.

We reiterate that improving working conditions within the industry and bolstering the rights of Thailand's migrant workforce, including by granting them the right to form unions, is vital to actually address human trafficking in Thailand's fishing industry.

Comments

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The Wyn Ellis case reported about on the Drummond news blog reveals just how far some people will go to save face and protect their social position.

These defamation laws seem to be used exclusively for two things in Thailand. The first is to stifle and deflect criticism of wrong doing and the second is to financially damage somebody.

Posted by Arun Muruga on January 23, 2015 08:44

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I hope the Prime Minister will be astute enough to seize political points, by making the lawsuit null and void.

Either that, or realize that the moral imperative of the Navy is intrinsically flawed, and make the lawsuit null and void.

signed,

win win situation

Posted by farang888 on January 25, 2015 22:32


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