PARIS, Oct 26: Thailand went on a charm offensive in defence of its prawn industry this week, seeking to convince Europeans that it is responding to allegations of slavery and torture in its fisheries sector.
The fishing industry accounts for 40 per cent of Thai exports of food products and is a mainstay of the economy.
But its image has been badly damaged by accounts of abuse of illegal immigrants held captive and forced into unpaid labour, sometimes on boats at sea for years on end without receiving any payment for their work.
Thailand pulled out the stops for the SIAL international food fair outside Paris this past week, sending a delegation replete with officials from the labour and fisheries ministries, plus police and anti-human trafficking experts as well as industry leaders.
They then travelled on to Brussels to lobby EU officials.
"We don't deny there is a problem," said Foreign Ministry official Sarun Charoensuwan at a special seminar on the subject. ? AFP