A recent AP report details the slave-like conditions in Thailand’s shrimp processing factories, factories that supply seafood to many of America’s main food providers.
In the report, a team of AP journalists followed the story of Tin Nyo Win and his wife, Mi San in Samut Sakhon. The couple, originally from Myanmar, was lured into human trafficking when they were told by a broker that they could get high-paying jobs without visas or work permits in Thailand.
They were promptly sold to the Gig Peeling Factory, a factory where almost 100 Burmese migrants peeled shrimps guts, heads, tails and shells for overseas markets. The factory had horrid conditions, as laborers worked in immense filth and laborers were frequently injured on the job. Workers also had overseers that monitored production all day, often cursing at them or calling them “cows” and “buffalos” to make fun of workers and keep them in line. Children weren’t allowed to go to school and were forced to work alongside the adults peeling shrimp at hourly rates that virtually mirrored their elders.
“I was shocked after working there a while, and I realized there was no way out,” Tin Nyo Win said. “I told my wife, ‘We’re in real trouble. If something ends up going wrong, we’re going to die.’”
The AP story reported:
The problem is fueled by corruption and complicity among police and authorities. Arrests and prosecutions are rare. Raids can end up sending migrants without proper paperwork to jail, while owners go unpunished.
More than 2,000 trapped fishermen have been freed this year as a result of an ongoing Associated Press investigative series into slavery in the Thai seafood industry. The reports also have led to a dozen arrests, millions of dollars’ worth of seizures and proposals for new federal laws.
Tin Nyo Win and Mi San eventually ran away from the factory, though Mi San (who happened to be pregnant) was at one point captured and taken back to work in a nearby factory. After being found by her husband and the police at the other shrimp factory, Tin Nyo Win and Mi San were soon arrested and charged with thousands of dollars in bail for entering the country illegally and working without permits.
Shrimp that’s processed by modern day slaves in Thailand at factories like Gig are distributed widely among food stores and retailers like Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General, Petco. It also supplies seafood to restaurants like Red Lobster and Olive Garden and brands like Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast. Because shrimp is America’s most highly consumed type of seafood, Thailand’s shrimp factories are a growing industry. The Asian country supplies almost half of America’s demand and is deemed one of the worst human trafficking sites in the world.
The US State Department blacklisted Thailand for two years because of corruption from Thai officials while the European Union (EU) has issued warnings and taxes on seafood imports. Next month, there may be a full ban on the product from the EU because of Thailand’s slave-like working conditions in its shrimp factories.
[SOURCE: Associated Press]