Speaking on his “Returning Happiness to the Thai People” Friday night, Gen Prayut said his government now places anti human trafficking as a national agenda issue same as drug suppression saying it has long tarnished the country’s image.
He blamed deteriorating human trafficking, particularly on the fishing industry, on inactions or ignorances by the previous government before his May 22 military coup.
Stern warning came after The Associated Press released its report of a year-long investigation documenting the shocking conditions of the Thai fishing industry. The AP report led to calls in the US Congress, among other places for further investigations of the fishery industry in Southeast Asia.
Last night, Gen Prayut said it was time now for his government to get tough with the problem and called for understanding from the public.
By prioritising the issue as on the national agenda, all government agencies will be drawn in tentacle the problem seriously and practically, he said.
He said these wealthy fishing operators have enjoyed the plight of trafficked labour for a decade and now it was time for them to stop as what they done had damaged the country’s reputation which consequently hurt the country’s exports.
Now Thailand is facing ban of its marine exports and may expand to cover other manor sports like rice or rubber.
According to Bangkok Post, Gen Prayut vowed to put fishing operators out of business if they are found to violate laws and abuse workers in ways that jeopardise Thai exports worth hundreds of billions of baht a year.
Gen Prayut said companies that carry out illegal fishing in the waters of other countries and use trafficked workers must be punished and have no more opportunities to do any business in the country.
“The people who do wrong in this area must repent. They have done this for a long time, for many years, and past administrations were never able to cope,” he said.
It was painful also as these operators did not even bother to help hundreds of their workers who were arrested in other countries, leaving the problem for the government to solve.
“If such abuses of fellow humans continue, I will instruct that they should not be allowed to do any business any longer in Thailand and they must be punished,” Gen Prayut said.
“Don’t ever blame me for being cruel. How can you take advantage of other people? You’re incredibly rich and have dozens of boats. It is time to abide by the law.”
He also stressed that his government was now acting on several fronts to try to clean up the fishery industry.
Apart from sending officials to help Thai crewmen arrested in Indonesia in a low profile way as he didn’t want it to become news because these crewmen also violated the law of neighbouring countries, he said.
Gen Prayut proposed that Thailand should form fishery joint ventures with neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei and Cambodia to end the arrests of fishing crews and end unhealthy competition.