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Corrections Department director-general Aryut Sinthoppan ordered a wholesale reform of prison labour usage to assure that departmental practices are in keeping with human rights principles, according to a press release on 1 March.

The order comes after the publication of Thomson Reuters investigative report “Jails in Thailand force prisoners to make fishing nets under threat of violence.”  In the report, former inmates stated that they were forced to produce fishing nets for 30 baht a month, well below the kingdom’s minimum wage range of 313-336 baht per day. Beatings and threats of delayed release were reportedly also used to make inmates work harder and meet quotas.

The statement cited a “wave of criticism” about the inhuman working conditions of prisoners producing fishing nets for private companies that violated their basic rights. The department plans to solve the issue by making prison employment voluntary. Pay rates will also be adjusted to suit working conditions and be open to public scrutiny.

Payment of prisoners will be in accordance with the minimum wage in each province. Prisons have been given 15 days to report to the Department of Corrections, confirming the cancellation of contracts with low-paying employers. 

The Department is establishing a prison labour reform committee to study the United Nations’ Mandela Rules, a set of 122 regulations split into 9 categories designed to make sure that prisoners are treated in line with the basic human rights and international labor principles.

Following the publication of the Thomson Reuters report, Khon Kaen Fishing Net Ltd (KKF), a company that supports prisoner vocational rehabilitation programs, announced that they were terminating contracts with any prisons involved in the abuse.

In February 2022, Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum and partner organizations in the Seafood Working Group submitted a petition to the US government alleging that KKF and another Thai company, Dechapanich Fishing Net Factory Ltd., were producing fishing nets under exploitative working conditions in Thai prisons. They called on the U.S. to investigate and block both companies from selling nets to U.S. corporations.

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