SAMUT SAKHON – Every morning at 2 o’clock, they heard a kick on the door and a threat: Get up or get beaten. For the next 16 hours, No.31 and his wife stood with their aching hands in ice water in the factory that owned them. They ripped the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp bound for overseas markets, including grocery stores and all-you-can-eat buffets across the United States, Europe and Asia.
After being sold to the Gig Peeling Factory, they were at the mercy of their Thai bosses, trapped with nearly 100 other Burmese migrants. Children worked alongside them, including a girl so tiny she had to stand on a stool to reach the peeling table. Some had been there for months, even years, getting little or no pay. Always, someone was watching.
No names were ever used, only numbers given by their boss – Tin Nyo Win was No.31.
Pervasive human trafficking has helped turn Thailand into one of the world’s biggest shrimp providers. Despite repeated promises by businesses and government to clean up the country’s US$7 billion seafood export industry, an Associated Press investigation has found shrimp peeled by modern-day slaves is reaching the US, Europe and Asia.
Myanmar shrimp shed worker Tin Nyo Win, left, and his wife, Mi San, were arrested in Samut Sakhon after talking about conditions in the shrimp export industry – fingerprinted, held on 140,000 baht bail, charged with entering the country illegally and working without permits. (All photos by AP)
Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves: AP
In this Sept 30 photo, workers transport baskets filled with shrimp at a seafood market in Mahachai, Thai-land. Thailand sends nearly half of its supply of shrimp to the US. – AP