Thai Fishing and Slavery
UK Consumers are urged to think twice about buying fish potentially sourced from Thailand's 'floating prisons'.
An escaped 'slave' fisherman, Zaws Zaw, has told the BBC how he was illegally trafficked from Burma to Thailand where he was the sold to work on a fishing vessel. Thailand is the UK's largest supplier of fish (namely Tuna and Prawns) and campaigners are urging consumers to think twice before buy fish caught by the Thai feet, one of the largest in the world.
Zaw Zaw's story is one of brutality, drugging, and cruelty. Forced to work 18 hour days and take amphetamines in order maintain a fast pace of work, he witnessed the murder of fellow enslaved crew members. But as shocking as it is, it's far from unique.
Reports have shown that migrants from countries including Cambodia, Burma, Ghana, and Bangladesh, have been sold or misled into forced labour aboard what CNN describe as “floating prisons crewed by slaves” in Thailand.
Motivated by fear to work long hours with little sleep and no financial reward, conditions for the slaves are dire. CNN reported that one victim considered murder to be rife. With those who succumb to illness or exhaustion, being killed and thrown overboard, “their nets sometimes snagged bodies of crew dumped from other ships.”
The Thai authorities say they cannot comment on individual cases, but insist laws are in place and they are doing what they can to stop the abuses and to regulate Thailand's huge fishing fleet. However the Environmental Justice Foundation states that “Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate’ fishing is devastating marine environments... and is unsustainable. It is driven by the enormous global demand for seafood and is symptomatic of the wider crises in world fisheries.”
Human rights groups now want consumers to pressure the Thai government to regulate the industry more efficiently, and insist that more could and should be done to put an end to such injustices.
Andy Hall works with a human rights group for Burmese migrants in Thailand. He believes people in Britain and around the world should be aware of what they are buying. "What we would say is when you buy your fish, and that fish comes from Thailand, it's coming from an industry where there is a gross exploitation of people who are trafficked into the industry, who are working such long hours in inhumane conditions.” He added, "The people who are receiving this fish need to be demanding that the Thai government regulate the fishing industry and ensure that the exploitation is reduced, because at the moment it is a very serious problem."