The Root Causes of Labour Trafficking in the Thailand Fishing Industry:
A Long Chain of Structural Problems
Labor trafficking in the Thai fishing industry has placed Thailand into a spotlight for half a decade, especially in the eyes of the global community. Therefore, as a major seafood and fishing-related products exporter, Thailand has been unavoidably hit by negative impacts. However, the common perception on the issue among Thais has always been merely a brutal criminal problem rather than a structural problem. This small issue, somehow, leads to the misunderstanding and the “inaccurate design” of the solution, which in turn undermines the effectiveness of the efforts to tackle the problems. According to the studies, labor trafficking in the Thai fishing industry is, in fact, a long chain of intertwined structural problems, consisting of a number of issues such as economic, political, and social. The problem of labor trafficking in the Thai fishing industry has been evolved from the combination of bad working conditions in the fishing industry, the Thai rapid growth as a result of globalization and global trade, the tremendous increase of job opportunities among Thais and the labor scarcity in the fishing industry due to the outflow of Thai laborers, the domestic problems in Thailand’s neighboring countries and the obvious economic disparity between Thailand and its next-door neighbors, and so forth. This combination created both high-demand and high-supply of migrant laborers to fulfill the system. However, due to the Thai law in the past, which was designed to reserve jobs for Thais, the mentioned demand and supply of laborers could not meet freely and legally. This led to the birth of brokers, who became the middlemen to marry the demand and supply of laborers via irregular channels. Illegal migrant workers, therefore, became vulnerable because of the lack of proper protection from the law, which made them easily exploited in the labor trafficking manners. This illustrates that labor trafficking in the Thai fishing industry is, in fact, the outcome of numerous problems that intertwined and became a long chain of structural problems, rather than a mere crime.