The Industry Discusses Migrant Workers in Thailand


In late September, Axfoundation invited journalist and researcher Andy Hall to a first Swedish industry meeting on migrant workers in Thailand. The International Organization for Migration, the Business Social Compliance Initiative, the Ethical Trading Initiative and QuizRR attended the meeting, which brought together a dozen companies in the food sector, as well as migration and labor market experts from the Swedish Ministry of Justice and Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Thailand is a major producer of processed chicken, fish and fruit. The local food industry employs over 3 million migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Several reports have revealed human rights violations such as trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor and inhuman working conditions to such an extent that the EU in 2015 issued a so-called yellow card against Thailand as an exporter of seafood. Workers’ rights in general and migrant workers’ rights in particular are under threat, and the military regime in Thailand has a repressive stance against activists and NGOs.

After several years of legal proceedings Andy Hall was sentenced on September 20, 2016 to four years imprisonment and heavy fines for violating the Thai Information Act and for slander against the company Natural Fruit, whose pineapple factory he investigated in 2012 on behalf of the organization Finnwatch. The verdict was reduced to a probational verdict since Hall had no previous convictions and was a human rights activist. As a result Hall can move freely. His case has attracted international attention and reflects the difficult human rights situation in Thailand.

Consumers and businesses react to a growing extent to the bad rights situation in Thailand. The hotel and travel industry has also been criticized for serious deficiencies. In the food industry, several cases have become known where migrant workers are exploited and forced labor is revealed. Swedish companies and the public sector are to discuss what can be done at the meeting initiated by Axfoundation. How can abuses be prevented? What should the process be once a violation has occurred? Governments and businesses share this responsibility (UNGP pillar 3). The meeting was organized in cooperation with the Swedish Trade Federation and Svensk Daligvaruhandel (the Swedish food trade association.

Read more about Andy Hall.