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PM to unveil new plan for traffickers

Bangkok Post - 3 April 2015 - Fixing forced labour to get top priority

The Labour Ministry is stepping up its efforts to deal with human trafficking issues as Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha is poised to declare trafficking as a national agenda item in need of urgent attention.

Deputy permanent secretary for labour Arak Prommanee said authorities are working on an integrated plan to solve problems of unlawful labour practices.

These can take the form of child labour, forced labour and illegal migrant labour.

A subcommittee will be set up to solve human trafficking problems, and a working group to support it.

Gen Prayut will declare human trafficking as a national agenda item today, though sources say he is unlikely to immediately invoke his special powers under Section 44 of the interim charter to deal with it. Instead, state agencies will be asked to work with urgency to tackle it.

The US closes its books on submissions for the annual Trafficking in Persons report at the end of April. The report will be published and released by the US State Department in June.

As for migrant labour, Mr Arak said special economic zones in border areas where migrant workers come to work in Thailand may be declared "special zones" to help tackle the problem.

The move is in compliance with a proposed bill for migrant labour.

The government had agreed to support drafting a bill proposed by the Labour Ministry to give job descriptions and working hours to migrant workers who want to work in factories here by day and return home across the border at night in border areas.

The bill would help state officials regulate migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, especially those in special economic zones in border areas, he said.

Mr Arak said migrant labour zoning in special economic zones would allow authorities to closely monitor migrant workers who enter the country.

He said he believes this measure will help strengthen the relationship between Thailand and neighbouring countries while maintaining security in border areas.

Mr Arak said he ordered authorities under the Ministry of Labour to gather information to be raised at the subcommittee meeting.

A group of officials will be sent to undergo a programme on employment audits provided by Department of Labour Protection and Welfare.

Authorities at the Ministry of Labour will work with the Department of Special Investigation, the Royal Thai Police and Internal Security Operation Command to boost the country's image, he said.

As for maritime security, Mr Arak said the department wants to eliminate duplication in fishing vessel inspections.

Meanwhile, a second batch of six Thai fisheries workers who were left stranded in Ambon Island in Indonesia have arrived back in Thailand safely, authorities said.

The workers are from Phetchabun, Udon Thani, Pathum Thani, Surin, Suphan Buri and Si Sa Ket provinces.

They travelled on an Air Asia flight and arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport on Wednesday night, according to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

A Thai multi-agency panel is looking into whether the fishermen had escaped labour exploitation aboard fishing vessels or were arrested by Indonesian authorities for illegal fishing.

Since October last year, the government had helped 176 Thai fisheries workers stranded overseas.

Of them, 167 have returned to Thailand, including the six who arrived in the country on Wednesday, and three are waiting for their documents to be processed before their return home.

About 57 Thai fishermen stranded on Ambon Island in Indonesia have made contact with a Thai panel there and asked to return to Thailand.

The government has vowed to tackle human trafficking after criticism by the international community, particularly from the United States and the European Union.

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Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/516727/pm-to-unveil-new-plan-for-traffickers

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