Just a few years ago, the dark underworld of forced labor in Thailand’s fishing sector was little known. The dirty secrets of this $7.3 billion powerhouse industry have since been explored by the media and international watchdog groups.
But this international outcry has changed little on the lawless seas, where men still slave away on Thai-captained trawlers under savage conditions. Implications for the US are disturbing: Thailand is America’s second-largest seafood supplier behind China.
More: 5 Reasons Why Slaves Still Catch Your Seafood
And, Human Rights Watch reports:
Human Rights Watch’s 124-page report, “From the Tiger to the Crocodile: Abuse of Migrant Workers in Thailand,” is based on 82 interviews with migrants from neighboring Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. It describes the widespread and severe human rights abuses faced by migrant workers in Thailand, including killings, torture in detention, extortion, and sexual abuse, and labor rights abuses such as trafficking, forced labor, and restrictions on organizing.
“Migrant workers make huge contributions to Thailand’s economy, but receive little protection from abuse and exploitation,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Those from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos suffer horribly at the hands of corrupt civil servants and police, unscrupulous employers, and violent thugs, who all realize they can abuse migrants with little fear of consequences.”
“Life is extremely uncertain and unsafe for migrants in Thailand as they flee one difficult or deadly situation into another,” said Adams. “They are a living example of the Thai proverb which describes how the vulnerable ‘escape from the tiger, but then meet the crocodile.’”
International Labour Organization says:
Need for partnerships and regulation
There is an urgent need for coordination between inspectors and law enforcement within States and across borders. The same goes for international agencies, government, workers’and employers’organizations, and civil society organizations.
An example of such partnerships is the TRIANGLE Project in the Greater Mekong sub-Region. This is a cooperation project between the ILO, its constituents and civil society in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, which aims to reduce the exploitation of labour migrants by improving recruitment and labour protection policies and practices.
The project is working with the Royal Thai Government and the National Fisheries Association among others, on a number of interventions to improve conditions for migrant workers, for example by setting up labour coordination centres for the fishing sector in seven provinces across the country. These centres aim to facilitate the recruitment of migrant workers and provide training and support. .
Improved regulation and the implementation of safety and labour standards can play an important role in preventing abusive practices in the industry.
Along nearby railroad tracks, children fetch booze, cigarettes and ice buckets for men with bloodshot eyes. Rouge-caked girls in neon skirts slink in and out of back rooms. Sex here sells for $8.50. A bottle of Blend 285 whiskey, the rotgut of choice, sells for $5. And laborers from Cambodia or Myanmar, whom the likes of Jord lord over, go for about $600 a head.
That is the price paid to smugglers, who guide droves of desperate men from Thailand’s neighboring countries to padlocked rooms by the shore. Far too often, the laborers themselves receive nothing.
Once purchased by a Thai fishing syndicate, captains can choose to pay them fairly, enslave them for years or, if they please, dispose of them later like worn-out chattel.
More reading: globalpost.com