Frozen food sector denies slave labour

Thai frozen food companies insist they follow international standards against human trafficking and denied accusations about the use of slave labour in the country's fishing industry.

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Panisuan Jamnarnwej, president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA), said associations in Thailand's fishing industry do not condone the use of slave labour in their industries.

"Business partners and key stakeholders in our business have worked our best against human rights violations. This is not just only for our benefit but also to improve the image of the country," he said.

Business operators have adopted international standards including good labour practices in primary processing workplaces in the food and shrimp industries.

The TFFA consists of eight members including the Thai Tuna Industry Association, the Thai Fishmeal Producers Association, the Thai Shrimp Association, the Thai Food Processors Association and the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association.

Mr Panisuan said Charoen Pokphand Foods Plc (CPF), for example, has not encouraged suppliers to use slave labour as claimed by a report in the British newspaper The Guardian.

"Indeed, CPF has been avoiding using illegal labour in its supply chains and increasing the purchase price so that it would encourage them to stop human trafficking," he said.

The US Labor Department said Thailand was currently in Tier 2 of countries whose governments did not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Thailand has been in the Tier 2 bracket for four years.

It was feared the country would be moved to Tier 3 this year after last year's "Trafficking in Persons Report" or TIP report expressed dismay at Thailand's slow progress in prosecuting human trafficking cases.

If the country's status slips to Tier 3, the lowest level, Thailand will risk more stringent trade sanctions and be denied financial assistance.

"If it turns out that we slip to Tier 3, of course it will definitely affect business. However, each company in the TFFA will be able to adjust themselves by, for instance, searching for other markets," said Mr Panisuan.

However, Thailand is confident the progress it has made in the prosecution of human trafficking over the past year will be enough for the US to give the country a good ranking in its 2014 TIP report, scheduled to come out tomorrow.

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