Workers Stunned at Thailand’s Vote Against Forced Labor Protocol

June 16—Update: The Thai government has indicated it wants to reverse its decision.

June 13, 2014—Thailand’s State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) is expressing shock that the country’s new government was the only nation to vote against a new legally binding treaty requiring punishment of perpetrators of forced labor.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) on Wednesday approved a protocol that updates its Forced Labor Convention by requiring ratifying nations to identify and secure release of victims, ensure them access to compensation and punish perpetrators.

The action is [a] “most offensive action and damaging to Thailand’s reputation to the outside world,” SERC said in a statement. “SERC strongly opposes this inappropriate action from every related person who supported violations against worker’s rights and human rights.”

Thailand was the only country to oppose the protocol. Most Gulf countries abstained from voting.

An estimated 21 million workers toil in forced labor. A recent ILO report estimates that $150 billion in illegal profits are made in the private economy each year through modern forms of slavery.

This week in its “Modern-Day Slavery Series,” the Guardian profiled migrant workers trafficked to Thailand to labor on fishing trawlers. As the Guardian reported: “The Thai fishing industry is built on slavery, with men often beaten, tortured and sometimes killed—all to catch ‘trash fish’ to feed the cheap farmed prawns sold in the west.”