TUF, Thai government assert anti-slavery stance


Sean Murphy, SeafoodSource online editor

Published on
June 16, 2014

The Thai government has reversed its position on a controversial human rights vote at the annual meeting of the International Labor Organization (ILO), while Thai Union Frozen Products (TUF) issued a statement Friday reaffirming its stance against the use of products, especially fishmeal, that come from fishermen using human slavery.

Thailand made headlines last week when it declined to vote in support of a new ILO protocol against human trafficking. The country’s fishing industry has come under fire, most recently in an article by the British newspaper The Guardian, for making use of human trafficking and forced labor.

On 16 June, the Thai government issued a new statement, effectively reversing its position and supporting the new protocol. Patana Bhandhufalk, Thailand’s labor attaché to the U.N., said the initial concern was with Thailand’s “readiness to implement such an instrument.”

“However, given the importance of the issue, and our strong commitment to eliminate forced or compulsory labor, the Thai delegation has consulted further with our capital at the policy level where upon we have decided to join the consensus in adopting the said Protocol, bearing in mind our need to proceed in accordance with our domestic requirements,” the government said in its statement.

Meanwhile, in a 13 June statement, TUF insisted that its sourcing policy “prohibits any form of forced labor, child labor or exploitation of human rights.”

The Guardian published a story earlier this month detailing a six-month investigation by the newspaper into the Thai fishing industry.

The newspaper, citing eyewitness testimony from workers who managed to escape from their employers, accused Thai shrimp supplier CP Foods of sourcing fishmeal from suppliers “that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.”

While the Guardian story does not mention TUF, and the TUF statement does not mention The Guardian by name, TUF officials said the company’s statement was in direct response to “the recent report by the U.K. media publication.”

“We have made it very clear that any misconduct in relation to human trafficking found will result in a serious consequence to suspend such trade relationship with no compromise,” said Thiraphong Chansiri, TUF’s CEO. “We proactively work with relevant stakeholders to ensure necessary actions are taken by creating constructive dialogues and strong co-operations that contribute to significant improvement of the Human Rights practices throughout our supply and distribution chains.”

The Guardian story also named several major retailers who source shrimp from CP Foods, including Walmart, Tesco, Morrison’s and Carrefour. In response to the story, Carrefour issued a statement saying the French retailer was suspending its purchasing from CP Foods “until light has been shed on this situation.” In its announcement, Carrefour said it had visited CP Foods’ processing plant as recently as July 2013, but found “nothing abnormal at the time.”

In its recent statement, TUF said it “conducts regular inspections with all fishmeal suppliers not only at their processing facilities but also at the ports where raw materials are secured.”

TUF also said it is working on its shrimp feed formula, with a goal of eliminating fishmeal from its operations altogether by 2020.

Keep checking SeafoodSource for all the latest news on the Thailand human trafficking issue

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