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Thailand’s National Assembly has passed amendments to anti-trafficking laws with harsh penalties. The legislation comes as American media reports put spotlight on slave-like conditions on Thai fishing vessels triggering calls for Thailand to crack down on labor exploitation, especially in the seafood industry.
Thailand’s tough new measures to combat human trafficking were passed overwhelmingly Thursday by the military-backed National Legislative Assembly, allowing prosecutors to seek life prison terms for those convicted of human trafficking.
The amendments to the anti-trafficking laws will open the way for more robust factory and industry inspections, especially in the fishing and seafood industry, which could lead to suspension of operating licences.
Thailand is under intense international pressure, especially from the United States, to curb human trafficking and abusive labor practices for migrant workers.
Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai says the government is serious about a crackdown on the multi-million dollar human trafficking and smuggling networks.
“We are very, very confident that from December until now we have done a very good job, a good enough job. Not just structural change but also the new Act, the legislation with the new measures could take care of the concerns of all parties,” he said.
Thailand’s migrant worker population numbers around three million, especially in construction, agriculture and manufacturing, many of whom are undocumented workers from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
The international spotlight has been thrust back on Thailand this week with publication of a detailed report by the U.S.-based news agency, The Associated Press.