Monday, July 20, 2015

Thai fishing industry traffics, imprisons and enslaves

Rohingya migrants trafficked through deadly jungle camps have been sold to Thai fishing vessels as slaves to produce seafood sold across the world, the Guardian has established. So profitable is the trade in slaves that some local fishermen in Thailand have been converting their boats to carry Rohingya migrants instead of fish.

A Guardian investigation into Thailand’s export-orientated seafood business and the vast trans-national trafficking syndicates that had, until recently, been holding thousands of Rohingya migrants captive in jungle camps, has exposed strong and lucrative links between the two. Testimony from survivors, brokers and human rights groups indicate that hundreds of Rohingya men were sold from the network of trafficking camps recently discovered in southern Thailand.

According to those sold from the camps on to the boats, this was frequently done with the knowledge and complicity of some Thai state officials. In some cases, Rohingya migrants held in immigration detention centres in Thailand were taken by staff to brokers and then sold on to Thai fishing boats.

Other Rohingya migrants say Thai officials collected them from human traffickers when they arrived on the country’s shores and transported them to jungle camps where they were held to ransom or sold to fishing boats as slave labour. Thailand’s seafood industry is worth an estimated $7.3bn a year. The vast majority of its produce is exported. Last year, another Guardian investigation tracked the supply chain of prawns produced with slave labour to British and American supermarket chains.

Though the Guardian has not irrefutably linked individual Thai ships using Rohingya slaves to specific seafood supermarket produce, the likelihood is that some seafood produced using this labour will have ended up on western shelves.

The scale of the profitable and sophisticated human trafficking networks making money from the desperation of hundreds of thousands of stateless Rohingya “boat people” has been emerging over the past weeks. Tens of thousands of Rohingya fled state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in Burma in the first three months of this year. Stateless and unwanted, their only option was to take to the seas in their desperate attempt to reach the relative safety of Malaysia... Read more: