Prayut says Section 44 not enough to resolve long standing fishing industry problem

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has conceded that Section 44 that grants him emergency powers under the interim constitution will not be able to resolve the illegal fishing within the time frame demanded by the European Union, reasoning that  the problem has been long standing and needs to be resolved in the broader perspective that will  take more than six months.

The prime minister said Section 44 is just a tool to facilitate working, but not enough to resolve the problem.

Prayuth’s admittance came after he has earlier stated that he would use Section 44 of the interim charter to resolve the problem within the six-month time frame.

The European Union has on April 21 announced that Thailand has six months to institute new measures to counter illegal fishing, or else face a potential import ban that will cost Thailand at least 20 billion baht in lost revenue.

Thailand is the world’s third-largest exporter of seafood.

But at last night “Returning Happiness to the the People” programme broadcast on nationwide TV networks, the military junta chairman admitted that Section 44 will not be adequate to fix the problems in the fishing industry.

“I cannot use Article 44 to solve every problem, I cannot use it to solve expensive lemons, to solve the economy  or to solve the ICAO aviation safety concern problem.  Section 44 is just for allowing military officers to do what they could not do in the past.”

Gen Prayut said Thailand has to accept the yellow card penalty on its fishing industry which has  not been resolved for a long time and he also could not guarantee it could be resolved within the EU’s required time frame.

He said there still has problems of unregistered fishing boats and business operstirs still employ illegal migrant workers to work.

These problems needed cooperation from all parties all sides to help, as well as assessment from outsiders, he said.

But he assured that his government would try to resolve these problems.

He said he would set up centers in different ports and assign soldiers and police to guard them.

“Each ship that comes and goes must cooperate with us. That is how I will use Section 44. If they leave without reporting, if they don’t know where their crew are, that’s wrong, and that’s what causes the problem that gives me headaches every day.”

This is how Section 44 is used constructively, he said and asked the people not to worry about Section 44 so much.

Gen Prayut admitted that the fishing problem was quite heavy but remained hopeful that EU will sympathise with Thailand’s effort and will give him a chance to improve.

“I think there’s hope that we may improve in the time they set for us. But it depends on all of us,” he said.

Prime Minister Prayut also reported progress on tackling forest encroaches saying the government has reclaimed more than 35 million rai of illegally-owned forest areas.

He said the forest areas which were seized  back would be revived and parts of them would be set aside for landless people.

But he stressed that those allowed to use the allocated land were prohibited from sell them.

They are required to pledge their assets or agricultural yields to obtain the right to land use, he said.

He said his government has so far handed more than 100,000 rai of confiscated land to farmers in 12 provinces and has planned to allot another 50,000 rai to those in 17 provinces this year.