Migrants in Fishery​


Thailand is one of the biggest seafood exporting countries in Southeast Asia, and the fishing industry requires the labour of migrant workers. Migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia, many undocumented, contribute significantly to this sector and provide Thai companies with cheap, unregulated labour. The experiences of migrants in fishery show that the living conditions, health assistance, and the general work environment in the fishing industry are poor. Long and irregular working hours, sickness, poor nutrition, abuse, and death at sea have been widely reported in recent years.  

Migrant fishery workers repair fish nets in Rayong, Thailand. (Photo: MMN/ John Hulme)

Previous research by MMN has looked into issues surrounding migrants in fishery, and ongoing abuse and mistreatment within the sector has led MMN to initiate further and more in-depth discussions to investigate gaps in existing mechanisms to support this group of workers. In 2018, MMN held a workshop on Frameworks on Migrant Labour in the Fishing Industry in the Mekong to examine protection mechanisms for migrant workers employed in the fishing sector. 

In 2019, Thailand became the first country in Asia to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention (C188), which protects the living and working conditions of fishers on board vessels. However, instances of abuse and exploitation within the sector continue to be documented and reported. In response to the still-inadequate protection mechanisms being applied to migrant workers in fishery, MMN, along with rights advocates of the region, collectively issued the “Joint Civil Society Statement concerning Ratification of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188).” To read the statement, please click here.

Related Initiatives

On 5 August 2018, Mekong Migration Network (MMN) organised a workshop entitled “Frameworks on Migrant Labour in the Fishing Industry in the Mekong” at the Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The workshop aimed to: 1) clarify the concepts of various frameworks surrounding/relating to labour migration, such as trafficking, slavery, forced labour, etc; 2) examine the implications of these frameworks on labour migration, particularly on migrant labour in fisheries; and 3) exchange views on what can be done to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families in fisheries.

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The idea for From our Eyes: Migrant Reflection was born at the workshop on Migration Trends and Responses in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and Beyond, held on 31 August 2010 in Chiang Mai, and co-organised by MMN, MAP Foundation, and the Asian Migrant Centre. At the workshop, two migrant worker leaders presented on the impacts of policy changes on migrant lives. Their reflections were insightful and informative, and highlighted the largely untapped value of migrant contributions to policy making.

Inspired by the presentations of the migrant leaders, MMN, in collaboration with members of the migrant community, decided to conduct this initiative to record further analyses and perspectives of migrants on changes over the past decade…

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Resource Hub

Joint CSO Statement on the Ratification of C188

Read the Joint Civil Society Statement concerning Ratification of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188)