07/07/2015, 00.00
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Striking fishermen slam “inefficient” Government controls

by Weena Kowitwanij
The crackdown advised by EU and implemented by the military junta leaves workers disgruntled. The crisis in the sector due to past failures. Destructive fishing techniques banned since 1972, but no one has ever implemented the law.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thai fishermen are continuing their strike in opposition to directives against illegal fishing - imposed by the European Union and adopted without notice by the military junta – which have outlawed most of their vessels.

 According to industry experts, the crisis was due to the government, which in recent years has done nothing to prevent the current  situation.

Wading into the debate on the EU’s "yellow card" handed out to Thailand last April, and the measures taken by the Bangkok government to avoid losing one its major export markets, Banchong Nasae, president of the Thai Marine Preservation Association says that "the mistakes of the government are evident in several places, such as the failure to comply with laws and measures for restoration and rehabilitation of the environment."
"The EU’s yellow card - continues the expert - is caused by the inefficiency in controls on illegal fishing which have accumulated in over20 years. The government should do the same as Indonesia in combating illegal fishing. "
Banchong also mentions that some practices that have ruined the Thai maritime fauna - such as bottom trawling and with electrical devices - "have been banned  by law since 1972 in the first 3 thousand kilometers from the coast. If we enforced these laws these tools of destruction would not have been used".
To adapt to the marine environment protection standards imposed by the EU, the military junta led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha decided last week to apply the new regulatory laws regarding vessels. Sector workers have protested, saying they have had no time to adapt to the regulations, and have called a strike.
According to Sama-air Jaemudore, from the Thailand Local Federation of Fishery Association, one cannot procrastinate because "operators were exempt from the law for 30 years, it’s too long for a second chance. The government must act to prevent illegal fishing techniques, and we appeal to fishermen to respect the rules for the good of all and of the environment. Thailand - he concludes - is able to solve the problem of exports with the European Union ".
In some provinces the fishermen strike however, continues. In Songkhla, the owner of a fishing vessel says that "although my boat is legal, I will keep it in port because the Songkhla Fishery Association decided that all members of the profession are to strike for those without documents . If within one week nothing changes, I'll have to go fishing to pay my employees".
Thailand is the third largest exporter of fish in the world. According to the Thai Frozen Foods Association, last year the market reached $ 3 billion. The turnover with Europe totaled between 575 and 730 million euro per year.
Wiriya Sirichaiekawat, vice president of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand is concerned that prolonged a strike "could lead to layoffs", seriously affecting an industry which employs about 300 thousand people, mostly illegal immigrants from neighboring countries.

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