Rights group opposes Thai plan to employ freed prisoners in fishing, calls industry abusive

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An international human rights group is urging Thailand's government to cancel a plan to encourage freed prisoners to work on fishing vessels, saying the industry abuses its workers.

The appeal by New York-based Human Rights Watch came after Thailand's Labor Ministry announced plans last week for prisoners serving sentences of one year or less to work on fishing boats on a voluntary basis after leaving prison.

Ministry official Viwat Jiraphanvanich said Thursday the program could help ease labor shortages in the fishing industry and find jobs for released convicts. He said laws would protect the men from being abused.

Human Rights Watch noted that many groups, including U.N.-affiliated organizations and Thai academic institutions, have found abusive practices in Thailand's fishery sector, including human trafficking and forced labor.