LABOUR ABUSES

THAILAND: Migrant workers endure harsh conditions

Activists allege long hours, use of child labour by unscrupulous firms

 
A Cambodian worker on a fishing boat in Mahachai, outside Bangkok. Some reports claim migrant labourers toiling long hours on Thai fishing boats are thrown into the sea if they fall sick. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK - Shrimp peeled by child labour. Pineapple juiced by workers whose passports have been withheld. And fish caught by virtually enslaved boatmen.

Allegations of abuse have tainted Thailand's US$30 billion (S$37 billion) food industry of late even as its government scrambles to avert possible United States sanctions for its record on human trafficking.

The country, which prides itself as the food basket of Asia, is heavily reliant on low-skilled labour from poorer neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia to power certain food processing industries.

But activists say many of these workers are undocumented and vulnerable to mistreatment by unscrupulous firms.

Background story

CRY FOR HELP

The workers were clearly in a situation that was abusive, and they asked me for help.

- Mr Andy Hall, lead researcher for a report by a Finnish non-governmental organisation which alleged that Natural Fruit, which has a pineapple concentrate factory employing 800 workers in Prachuap Khiri Khan, was abusing its mostly Myanmar workers

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