04/24/2015, 00.00
THAILAND
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Thai Prime Minister asks Indonesia for help against illegal fishing

by Weena Kowitwanij
The European Union has threatened to suspend fish imports from Southeast Asia unless Thailand does not move against banned fishing practices. Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha met the Indonesian president to discuss a common strategy against illegal fishing. Thai admiral says, “We shall do it.”

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the Asia Africa Conference, currently underway in Bandung, to discuss illegal fishing, a problem that affects both countries.

Recently, the European Union gave Thailand a "yellow card", threatening to suspend fish imports if it does meet specific fishing standards and enforce fishing rules within six months.

However, "We should not be hasty in solving problems or blame someone else,” Thai Prime Minister Chan-ocha said. “We now have six months. The government and the private sector must work together.”

In view of the situation, General Chan-ocha met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. “I discussed this issue with” him “and he seems to understand perfectly the problem, given the large number of Thai boats Indonesia inspects."

"I asked for his help to assist Thai boats held in Indonesia,” he added, “and he (Widodo) promised that he would examine the issue."

Thai-Indonesian cooperation will not be easy. "There are 2,000 boats in Thailand that have improper licenses," said Wiriya Sirichaiekawat, deputy chairperson of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand. "It will be difficult for the government to get the boats registered within six months. In fact, “There's too much paperwork to register a boat".

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister, Pitipong Puengboon na Ayutthaya said that in the coming days, he would table a draft bill in Parliament to fight illegal fishing.

"The Act will regulate all stages of the process: boat registration, satellite monitoring of boats, fishery control centres, and increased inspections of catches in ports." To cut red tape, "we shall reform the existing system to adapt it fully to international standards," he added.

"Patrol boats will inspect Thailand’s territorial waters,” said Royal Thai Navy Commander Admiral Kraison Chansuwanit.

Confident that the plan will succeed, he said he “reminded naval officers that they will have to check out the crews and arrest illegals. This way we can show to the EU that we are fully enforcing the rules."

Approximately 3.1 per cent of fish imported each year into the European Union comes from Thai waters, worth from US$ 625 to 800 million.

In South-East Asia, the fishing industry is recovering after Indonesia stepped up its fight against illegal fishing last year, a crackdown that upset the supply chain.

What is more, labour shortages have forced many Thai fishing companies to hire illegal foreign workers from Cambodia and Myanmar, who are paid less than minimum wage as required by Thai law.

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