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New Initiative Seeks to Improve Human Rights Protections in Thailand's Fishing Sector

/ -- WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - March 14, 2016) -  Renowned Thai human rights and labor advocate Sompong Srakaew has formed a new initiative aimed at ridding Southeast Asia's seafood sector of human trafficking and other labor abuses.

MAST, the Multi-stakeholder Initiative for Accountable Supply Chain of Thai Fisheries, brings together Mr. Sompong's Labor Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN) and TLCS Legal Advocate Company in Bangkok. Human rights consultancy The Mara Partners and law firm Kelley Drye & Warren LLP are coordinating MAST's efforts in the U.S.

"MAST will continue the work of reforming Thai fisheries to eliminate human trafficking and all other forms of forced labor, as well as illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing practices," Mr. Sompong said. "We will work together with civil society, industry, and governments to help put an end to these abuses."

Mr. Sompong's LPN, founded in 2004, has advocated for migrant worker rights, conducted raids to free migrant workers in forced labor situations, and helped strengthen The Kingdom of Thailand's human trafficking laws. As LPN's founder, Mr. Sompong was recognized by the U.S. State Department with a Trafficking in Persons Hero Award in 2008 for his efforts to combat modern day slavery and improve the lives of migrant workers in Thailand.

MAST's immediate goals include the creation of a Thai fishermen's union; the establishment of centers at ports to provide shelter, food, and first aid to fishermen; and the strengthening of public awareness of migrant worker living conditions. It aims to serve as a watchdog to prevent human trafficking and to open a legal clinic for trafficking victims.

MAST will also begin exploring effective and achievable ways to help track and monitor fishing vessels of all sizes and ensure the integrity of the supply chain from the sea to the factory. It seeks to promote full compliance with Thailand's new law combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and requiring an ethical supply chain.

Nine Thai fishing organizations have already committed to joining MAST's efforts, including the National Fisheries Association of Thailand, the Pair Trawlers Association of Thailand, and the Coalition of Peeling Sheds. The group will work to build a coalition of governments, international organizations, private sector companies, trade associations, NGOs, human rights lawyers, and academics.

Illegal practices in Thailand's multi-billion-dollar fishing industry have been the focus of recent reports in international media. Mr. Sompong has been featured discussing the problem on PBS NewsHour and in The Australian.

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To arrange an interview with Sompong Srakaew, contact:
Robert Vanasse
Stove Boat Communications

LPN Program Manager Patima Tangprachakoon, alongside Laotian officials, meets with the family of a missing Laotian fisherman at the Laotian embassy in Thailand. The fisherman was eventually returned home safely. (2014)

The overgrown graves of fishermen from Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar cover the forest floor of Benjina Island, Indonesia. (2014)

A group of migrant workers at an immigration detention facility on Ambon Island, Indonesia. (2014)

The graves of unknown Thai fishermen on Ambon Island, Indonesia. (2014)

On Ambon Island, Indonesia, Samak Tubtanee, head of the Human Trafficking Office at the LPN, works to return forced laborers to their homes. (2014)

A group of workers being held in a private jail on Ambon Island, Indonesia. Fearing that this photo could be his last, one worker said, "Take my picture and tell my family, I am here and I am still alive." These workers have since been rescued and retuned home, but their government only identified two of them as victims of human trafficking. (2014)

The first group of Thai and Burmese workers rescued from Ambon Island, Indonesia by the LPN. The group was provided with food and basic necessities until their safe return home. (2014)

MAST leaders Sompong Srakaew and Dornnapha Sukkree meet with U.S. Department of Labor officials in Washington. (2016)

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