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Cablegate: Thai Reaction (Government and Business) to Dol

VZCZCXRO6843
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #2355/01 2591036
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161036Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8281
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 6983
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY IA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002355

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/ILSCR, AND GTIP
LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ETRD PREL KTIP TH
SUBJECT: THAI REACTION (GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS) TO DOL
LISTS ON FORCED AND CHILD LABOR

REF: SECSTATE 92560

BANGKOK 00002355 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: A senior Thai Foreign Ministry
(MFA) representative negatively reacted September 10 to
reftel talking points regarding the release of the Department
of Labor's (DOL) list of goods believed to be produced by
forced labor or child labor (mandated by the Trafficking
Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA)), and the
proposed update to the E.O. 13126 list of products. The
representative noted her "deep disappointment" that Thailand
is being penalized for being an open society and pointedly
stated, &This is not the way to work with friends.8 She
also reaffirmed that the Thai government takes seriously the
problem of forced and child labor. Later conversations with
other MFA representatives confirmed the Thai government's
concern that the DOL lists will be used to restrict the
export of shrimp from Thailand to the United States. On
September 14, the Secretary General of the Thai Frozen Food
Association (TFFA) also expressed concern over the potential
impact on his association's member companies, echoing the
Foreign Ministry's concern. He noted activities undertaken
over the last year to help manage the supply chain of TFFA
member companies and to ensure that TFFA members do not use
forced labor themselves. Both the MFA and the TFFA indicated
they will make use of the public comment period associated
with the E.O. 12136 list.

2. (SBU) Summary and Comment (continued): Based on the
reaction of our MFA colleague, the tone of partnership that
we have worked so hard to develop with the Thai government
took a half-step backward with the publication of these
lists. Nonetheless, we have no doubt that we will continue
to find a partner in the Thai government to combat
exploitative labor in all its forms in Thailand. In
addition, we intend to deepen our contact with the shrimp
industry's TFFA with the goal of strengthening our private
sector partnerships. Our work so far has made strides in
that direction. End summary and comment.

Thai Government Reaction
------------------------

3. (SBU) Post delivered reftel talking points on September
10 to Kanchana Patarachoke, Director of the Foreign
Ministry's North America Division, regarding the pending
release of the Department of Labor's (DOL) list of goods from
countries that it has reason to believe are produced by
forced labor or child labor in violation of international
standards; the proposed update to the 2001 list of products
that might have been mined, produced, or manufactured by
forced or indentured child labor; and the 2008 Findings on
the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Econoff emphasized that the
TVPRA list is an awareness-raising tool and not punitive in
nature, and that the listing of the Thai goods in question on
the TVPRA and E.O. 13126 lists does not mean that all such
goods are made with forced or child labor (or
forced/indentured child labor).

4. (SBU) Director Kanchana repeatedly expressed her &deep
disappointment8 and pointedly stated, &This is not the way
to work with friends.8 She explained her view that Thailand
is being penalized for being an open society as evidenced by
the listing of Thai goods and not those from many other
nations. She opined that while a nuanced understanding of
the lists may help observers to understand the USG's intent
in publishing them, the reality is that most observers will
simply see goods from Thailand listed and chose to make
purchases from elsewhere. As such, the Foreign Ministry has
serious concerns over the commercial impact of the lists.
She felt this especially true given the E.O. 13126 list's
requirement of certifications by federal suppliers prior to
their providing goods to USG agencies ) another
disadvantage, in her opinion, for Thailand exporters.
Understanding the E.O. list to be only a preliminary
determination, Kanchana noted the Thai government would take
advantage of the 90-day public comment period prior to the
final determination.

5. (SBU) Director Kanchana noted that she understands the
DOL lists to be part of a noble effort by the U.S. government
to raise awareness on issues of mutual importance (to both
Thailand and the United States) and to promote American
values. "No one pays more attention to USG Reports than
Thailand, and we take seriously the problem of forced and

BANGKOK 00002355 002.2 OF 002


child labor." Nonetheless, intentions aside, she opined that
our efforts through the lists will be counter-productive,
causing consternation and potentially causing some nations to
stop trying to meet our seemingly un-meetable standards.

6. (SBU) Driving home the Foreign Ministry's concern over
the commercial impact of the DOL lists, MFA North America
Division officials placed numerous calls to Econoffs
September 14 and 16 to inquire whether section 308 of the
draft U.S. Senate bill "The Customs Facilitation and Trade
Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009" will be used to
prevent Thai shrimp from entering the U.S. market. Using
reftel talking points and information provided to post by the
U.S. Department of Labor, Econoff explained that the USG's
intent is not to restrict trade, but to raise awareness on an
area of great concern and to enforce existing U.S. law with
regard to forced or indentured child labor.

Private Sector Reaction - Shrimp
--------------------------------

7. (SBU) Econoff and DHS/ICE Deputy Attache sat down late
September 14 with the Secretary General of the Thai Frozen
Food Association (TFFA) and Assistant Managing Director of
the Narong Seafood Company, Arthon Piboonthanapatana.
Arthon, not surprisingly, expressed concern over the
implications for TFFA members of the listing of Thai shrimp
(a key export product for TFFA members) on both the TVPRA and
E.O. 13126 lists. We provided Arthon with background
material from the DOL/ILAB webpage, briefed him on the
reasons for and scope of the lists, and informed him of the
public comment period for the E.O. 13126 list. Like the MFA,
Arthon indicated that the TFFA would also provide comment to
DOL, specifically to explain its supply-chain management
activities undertaken over the past year. He also stated
that the TFFA established a rule that any member found to
employ forced child labor would be expelled from the
association.

8. (SBU) NOTE: In June 2008, Embassy Bangkok DHS/ICE and
Economic Section officers accompanied Thai government labor
inspectors (as well as TFFA, civil society and Foreign
Ministry representatives) on visits to sixteen member
companies of the TFFA to investigate the use of forced child
labor in the Thai shrimp industry, as alleged in the December
2008 publication of the Solidarity Center publication "The
True Cost of Shrimp," and as confirmed by Thai law
enforcement raids on shrimp-processing facilities in
September 2006 and March 2008 that uncovered such practices.
The site visits included interviews with employees, a review
of financial records by forensic auditors, and an inspection
of some employee living quarters. While the site visits did
not uncover the use of forced child labor in the companies
visited, they helped raised awareness within Thailand on the
issue of exploitative labor in the shrimp industry, and put
the industry on notice that illegal activity by some actors
within the sector was of growing concern to many in the
international community.

9. (SBU) NOTE (continued): Since that time, DHS/ICE has
maintained regular contact with the TFFA. According to the
TFFA, as an outgrowth of the June 2008 activity, it has begun
weekly, random inspections of shrimp peeling facilities that
supply TFFA members. On August 28, DHS/ICE officials
accompanied TFFA representatives on an inspection of two
facilities in Samut Sakhon province. DHS/ICE observed the
inspection process that included a review of the cleanliness
of shrimp peeling areas, potential safety hazards, financial
records, and copies of identification and work permit
documents). No forced child labor was found on these August
28 TFFA inspections, and none has been reported to post from
any TFFA inspections that it may have conducted prior. End
Note.
JOHN

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