Thailand reverses earlier decision, backs ILO protocol on forced labour

Guy Ryder

THAILAND - The decision reaffirms commitments to eliminate forced labour in compliance with the new instrument, Thai permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva Thani Thongpakdi said.

The Labour Ministry would later send a formal letter to inform the director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) General Guy Ryder on the new decision, he said.

The International Labour Organisation conference in Geneva considered and adopted new instruments on Wednesday to supplement the 1930 Forced Labour Convention.

At the meeting, Thailand voted for a non-binding recommendation but said no to the binding protocol. However, its lone vote in opposition drew strong criticism from the international community over Thailand's weak stance on the issue.

More than 4,700 government, employer and worker delegates at the Geneva conference adopted the new legally binding ILO Protocol on Forced Labour, which aims to advance prevention, protection and compensation measures, as well as to intensify efforts to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery, according to an ILO press statement.

Part of initial reluctance by the Thai delegation may have stemmed from the fact the protocol requires ratification of domestic laws and regulations, as well as reports on implementation.

"To adopt any specific instrument, we have to consider our readiness to implement such an instrument," Thani explained.

However the Labour Ministry revised its stance - it was deemed necessary to join the international consensus in trying to address the issue of forced labour seriously, he said.

"We don't want to send a wrong signal to the international community but wanted to cooperate with the ILO on the matter," Thani said.

With its stance adjusted, Thailand has to comply with the protocol and follow binding obligations which it requires, according to Patana Bhandhufalck, Minister Counsellor (Labour) to the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva.

Thai law provided all workers in Thailand with protection in relation to working conditions as well as related benefits regardless of nationality, she said. "This includes protection against forced labour," she noted.

Patana informed the ILO conference about the new decision during a meeting late last week.