In 2016, the Global Slavery Index estimated that 425,500 people, equivalent to 0.63 percent of Thailand’s total population, currently live in conditions of modern slavery.

Three Main Forms of Modern Day Slavery in Thailand

Modern day slavery in Thailand manifests in predominately three forms:

  • Forced labor
  • Commercial sexual exploitation
  • Child soldiers

The most prevalent of these forms is forced labor, specifically within Thailand’s fishing industry. Human trafficking for forced labor in the Thai fishing industry enslaves not only men and women, but also children from the Greater Mekong Subregion. In the U.S., this $7 billion industry forces those enslaved to endure brutal treatment including severe and frequent physical abuse, threats of abuse, excessive and inhumane working hours, sleep and food deprivation, forced use of methamphetamines and lengthy, confined trips at sea.

Yellow Card

After media exposés in 2014 and 2015 that showed human trafficking and brutalizations of fishers on Thai fishing boats, the country received a “yellow card” warning from abroad; this means that the nation could face a ban on seafood export to the European Union. Following the EU’s actions, the United States placed Thailand on the Tier 2 Watch List in its 2017 Trafficking in Persons report, a ranking given to governments who do not fully meet the minimum standards for trafficking elimination.

In response, the Thai government removed antiquated fishing laws and issued a new ordinance to regulate the fishing industry. It further extended the application of the key provisions of labor law regulating wages and conditions of work to fishing vessels and established in law some International Labour Organization treaty provisions through the adoption of the 201 Ministerial Regulation concerning Labour Protection in Sea Fishery Work.

Thai Reforms & Pink Cards

These efforts led to the requirement of legal documentation and accounting on crew lists of migrant fishers as boats departed and returned to port, which aimed to help end some of the worst abuses. Thailand also created the system of “port-in, port-out” which demands that boats report for inspections as they depart and return to port. The system also established procedures for inspection of fishing vessels at sea.

Other reforms have been enacted in the industry in the wake of two reports by the International Labor Organization in 2013, and the Environmental Justice Foundation in 2014. These reports led to responses by the Thai government to introduce registration documents, also known as pink cards, for migrant workers on board. The government also instituted practices to inspect ships’ crews when leaving and returning to port. Along with vessel monitoring systems, other measures have led to important improvements for fishers, including limiting time at sea to 30 days.

Room for Improvement

However the report from Human Rights Watch, “Hidden Chains: Forced Labor and Rights Abuses in Thailand’s Fishing Industry,” shows how recent reforms addressing modern day slavery in Thailand’s fishing fleets haven’t totally rid the industry of coercive labor practices.

The report also asserts that even amongst Thai government’s pronouncements to rein in human rights abuses, the instances still remain widespread; as a result, joint efforts need to be made. Although the U.S. and EU have taken steps to punish the Thai government for abusive practices, “The EU and U.S. urgently need to increase pressure on Thailand to protect the rights, health and safety of fishers.”

Challenges still remain. Overfishing in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea has forced fishing vessels to operate at greater distances from shore, traveling at times along the coastlines of Indonesia and other neighboring countries. This has led monitoring difficulties both jurisdictionally and practically. This problem is only intensified by poor registration and licensing of fishing vessels — many operate under layers of false documentation. Furthermore, the government’s system of pink card ties the fishers’ “legal status to specific locations and employers whose permission they need to change jobs, creating an environment ripe for abuse.”

Making Progress

Despite these obstacles, progress has been made. Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended the country’s progress thus far by stating, “The Government has implemented various legal reforms, policies, and strengthened law enforcement on labour protection as well as engaged closely with the private sector, non-governmental organizations and neighboring countries. As a result, there has been significant improvement in the labour situation in the fishing industry in many areas.”

Progress thus far has shown that there is hope for reform and change in Thai’s fishing industry. Through the help of international players, modern day slavery in Thailand can be defeated.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Flickr

End Modern SlaverySlavery is never an easy problem to confront. It is uncomfortable and unpleasant to think about, a complex jumble of economics, politics, culture, and dozens of other areas. It is also very uncomfortable to address the possibility that many western clothes and electronics are made by slaves. However, poverty cannot end completely without ending slavery, and slavery will not end without an end to poverty. They feed off one another, so in order to end poverty, people must end modern slavery as well.

Society tends to imagine slavery as an issue of the past, a horrible chapter of human history that closed with the ban on the slave trade in Europe and the emancipation proclamation in America. But slavery has continued, and today, there are more people in slavery than at any other time in human history. Twenty-seven million people are enslaved today, 79 percent of whom are women and children. Almost every country in the world is somehow involved in human trafficking and slavery, either as a country of origin, transit or destination.

Many people who become trapped in slavery are the people who are already trapped in poverty. People in extreme poverty often try to find ways out of their desperate situation, and many are lured into the slave trade with promises of education, steady work and a better life. Instead, they are sold into slavery, often for as little as $90 a person, and imprisoned with literal chains or psychological pressure. They can then be forced into different types of slavery, including sexual exploitation and prostitution, forced labor, being compelled to act as beggars, benefit fraud and organ removal.

There are laws and international protocols against the slave trade, but they are poorly enforced and often ineffective. Victims fear coming forward to the authorities because of stigmas and the risk of imprisonment or deportation, even when they are the victims, not the criminals. The victims are often the ones to carry the social shame and punishments while the conviction rate for the slave traders remains low.

Ending modern day slavery feels like a difficult task. There is no open slave trade to end as there was in the 1700s and 1800s. The U.N. is one of the many organizations working to free people and give them a new life. Since the early ’90s, it has freed more than 90,000 people by working to prevent trafficking and protect victims. However, there are still millions more to free and prevent from becoming victims in the first place. The State Department has devised a strategy of prosecution, protection and prevention, the “3 P’s” that are aimed to end modern slavery.

One of the most important ways to end modern slavery is by preventing it. Both slavery and poverty are about “excluding people from economic and social justice,” so addressing economic and social issues deals with slavery and poverty together. By preventing individuals from falling into the desperate situations of poverty, they are less vulnerable to slave traffickers. Preventing social exclusion and discrimination is also an important step to stop slavery. Slowing the supply of victims by addressing these social and economic causes is a crucial step to ending modern slavery. Since many of these problems are also related to global poverty, this is a win-win situation.

Protection is another key way to end slavery. The movements of refugees and migrants have made many people more vulnerable, so safe migration and trade unions can help keep workers from becoming susceptible to the slave trade. Those already trapped in the slave trade should receive the proper treatment and legal action. This leads to the final P, which is prosecution of those running the slave trade. The low prosecution rates provide little deterrence for those involved with the slave trade, so cracking down on prosecution can act as a form of further deterrence.

Compared to the number of people in poverty, about 10 percent of the world’s population, the number of people in slavery is small. However, these 27 million people deserve far better treatment. Addressing the issues of poverty that cause the desperation can help end modern slavery, and ending modern slavery helps end poverty.

Rachael Lind

Human TraffickingHuman trafficking is a disturbing crisis that affects individuals of all ages, sexes and races at a global level. It is a crime that is often regarded as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. According to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, human trafficking in the United States rose 35.7 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Human trafficking is essentially a form of modern-day slavery, where traffickers will use force, fraud or coercion to control victims. The two most common forms of human trafficking are sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking has been found in a multitude of venues within the sex industry, including residential brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs and street prostitution. Labor trafficking is found in a variety of labor settings such as domestic work, small businesses, large farms and factories.

Trafficking exists due to two major factors: low risk and high profits. Human traffickers tend to see little risk in these criminal operations. Although there have been increasing investigations, penalties and prosecutions throughout the years, the high profit potential from committing these crimes makes them worth the risk for many. There is often a lack of government and law enforcement training with these situations, as well as many in a community not being aware of the threat, ineffective laws, scarce resources to help victims recover and even social blaming of victims. Many of these high profits include when individuals are willing to buy commercial sex, whether it be from children or adults, and many consumers are willing to buy services from industries that rely on forced labor.

 

Top Facts on Human Trafficking:

 

  1. Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.
  2. While 19 percent of trafficking involves labor exploitation, 80 percent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation.
  3. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.
  4. About 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and 80 percent are female while half are children.
  5. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry—just behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking—and reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of the $32 billion, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized nations.
  6. According to the International Labour Organization, it is estimated that women and girls represent the largest share of trafficking victims when it comes to forced labor with 11.4 million (55 percent), compared to men at 9.5 million (45 percent).
  7. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the greatest numbers of traffickers stem from Asia, Central Europe, Southeastern Europe and Western Europe.

The Department of Homeland Security has a page that can help one recognize the signs of human trafficking, as well as a page on further identifying a victim with hotlines to call to report suspicious criminal activity to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Being informed on human trafficking as well as the proper steps to take when potentially encountering a trafficking victim could save someone from an unfortunate and disturbing fate.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr

Labor_Trafficking
Over 35 percent of the global population is living on less than $2 a day. This makes 2.5 billion people worldwide vulnerable to becoming trafficking victims.

There are an estimated 14.2 million people who are trapped in what is considered forced labor. Common industries for forced labor include agriculture, domestic work, construction and manufacturing. An estimated $9 billion is annually generated from forced labor activity in agriculture and forestry work alone. Additionally, an estimated $34 billion has been made in industries such as construction, mining and manufacturing. According to the State Department, the average labor trafficker makes $4,000 per victim annually.

Anyone can become a victim of labor trafficking, no matter his or her gender, age or ethnicity. There are victims in every country, including the United States. Those targeted in the U.S. tend to be vulnerable populations, most commonly recruited from homeless shelters. Unskilled labor, a lack of educational opportunities and high rates of illiteracy are common among trafficked victims. Many factors can contribute to an individual being targeted for labor trafficking, but poverty remains at the top of the list.

People living in extreme poverty, within communities with limited access to resources and opportunities, make for easy targets for traffickers. Preying on vulnerable individuals, labor traffickers lure people into the workforce by providing the victim ways to “escape” his or her impoverished life. The fraudulent promises include job training, education and other false development possibilities. Some victims, with hopes of helping their families, eagerly explore the chance for a better life.

For victims of labor trafficking, pay is nil or non-existent. The employers of forced labor use physical and psychological violence to control their victims. Often, debt bondage becomes an unbreakable contract for victims. Occasionally, it is the parents’ or family’s debt that leads to children being sold as a method of payment for the debt. In such cases, impoverished parents sometimes send their children with a person they know and trust in exchange for money, believing in the professed promise of a better life for their child.

In Asia, the labor-related trafficking trade is said to be the most prevalent, valued at $51.8 million annually. The abundance is attributable to the profit that is generated from victims working in developed countries.

Poverty is a main catalyst and explanation for the large numbers of trafficked victims. The United States and other Western countries need to ensure their businesses are not utilizing trafficked victims. Policy changes, awareness and advocacy are needed. Labor trafficking will continue unless a united voice against the exploitation of the poor gains more momentum.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Polaris Project, U.S. Department of State
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking

There are numerous causes of human trafficking, but the root of most causes is money. Reaping approximately $150 billion and victimizing close to 27 million people, human trafficking is the fastest-growing illicit industry in the world. It includes sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced child labor and the unlawful recruitment of soldiers. The common factor lurking behind the different causes of human trafficking is the victim’s vulnerability to exploitation.

Characterized by low costs and high returns, human trafficking is an extremely lucrative enterprise. Harvard’s Siddharth Kara discovered that the cost of today’s slaves is, on average, $420 and modern slaves can generate more than 500 percent in annual return on investment. In comparison, the cost of slaves in 1850, after adjusting for inflation, was between $9,500 and $11,000. During the time, the return on investment from a slave was significantly lower, around 15 to 20 percent in annual return on investment. Furthermore, traffickers face low risks, although more governments around the world are actively penalizing human traffickers, and have a steady stream of vulnerable people to exploit.

 

Poverty & Causes of Human Trafficking

 

Although the world successfully reduced global poverty by 35 percent in the past 27 years, 767 million people still live in poverty and make up a portion of the pool of those vulnerable to human trafficking. The structural causes of human trafficking are poverty, lawlessness, social instability, military conflict, natural disasters, weak law enforcement and racial and gender biases. These structural causes represent the broader, necessary requirement for human trafficking to thrive: vulnerability.

Many times, poor families will give their children away to traffickers posing as agents promising their children better lives. Refugee camps are prime locations for this kind of exploitation. Where displaced people lack many forms of proper care, shrewd traffickers build relationships with corrupt officials and freely prey on the weak.

In a more recent example, migrants who cross the Sahara to escape war and terrorism are often captured by traffickers in northern parts of Africa. The International Organization for Migration reported that many of these migrants are falsely promised jobs and then are sold publicly in Libyan slave markets. Many do not make it to Europe.

Human trafficking can happen anywhere, as long as the environment contains vulnerable conditions. The New York Times estimates that one-fifth of homeless youth are victims of human trafficking in the U.S. and Canada. In West Africa, traffickers pose as teachers and enslave optimistic students to become beggars. In 2015, the Associated Press discovered that young migrants and impoverished Thais were forced to catch seafood that later ended up in the world’s seafood supply, including on the shelves of America’s major retailers and supermarkets. Thai agents recruited children and the disabled, some of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the world.

Today, many countries are collaborating together to reduce the causes of human trafficking. The U.S. State Department Trafficking-in-Persons Report is the world’s most comprehensive resource on anti-trafficking efforts, including 188 countries and territories. Countries that fail to meet the report’s minimum requirements fall to tier three status, which can result in sanctions on the country. In 2016, Thailand was recognized for making significant strides in eliminating human trafficking.

Locally, ordinary people and nonprofits are continually impacting their communities. Nonprofits, such as Mango House in Chiang Mai, Thailand or FOREFRONT in India, continue to address these structural issues that breed vulnerability.

– Andy Jung
Photo: Flickr

luis cdebaca
During a recent Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on forced labor and modern-day slavery, Luis CdeBaca affirmed that countries in East Asia and the Pacific have made progress combatting human trafficking.

“Are we making progress?” asked Sen. Benjamin Cardin.

Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, responded that improvements were clear despite some discouraging facts highlighted by the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report.

The first half of the hearing focused on this report, which was released in June. The report assigns tier rankings to countries based on their meeting or failing to meet set standards to stop trafficking. During the hearing, Sen. Cardin expressed his concern that, according to the report, 10 countries remained tier 2, perhaps indicating a lack of progress. CdeBaca noted that progress still occurred in these countries, but it was not significant enough to warrant an upgrade yet. He likened this progress to the difference between a “B that is an 80 and a B that is an 89,” in terms of the grading system of American schools.

CdeBaca’s testimony lauded in particular the Republic of Korea, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands for legislation passed to improve their legal capacity to fight human trafficking. China, Burma and Thailand saw improvements as well, but these were counterpoised and perhaps overshadowed by other shortcomings. Timor-Leste, Malaysia and North Korea were each singled out as countries severely hindering efforts to eliminate trafficking.

Tuesday’s hearing comes nearly one month after the Guardian reported fishing boats off Thailand were using slave labor to produce prawns sold in the U.S. and UK. CdeBaca pointed out that Thailand has been downgraded in its tier ranking mostly because of labor trafficking, rather than sex trafficking, issues—emphasizing to the Thai government the need to aggressively address forced labor.

Other witnesses at the hearing also commented on issues related to the forced labor crisis in Thailand. Both Jesse Eaves, the Senior Policy Advisor for Child Protection at World Vision, and Neha Misra, the Senior Specialist for Migration and Human Trafficking at the Solidarity Center, spoke of forced labor generally as a system in which men, women and children are led into slavery through the deception of employment agencies hired by (potentially American) companies. Misra also discussed in depth the supply chain issues that lead U.S. consumers to inadvertently support forced labor in foreign countries.

“U.S. companies have not done enough to prove to consumers that their supply chains are not tainted with forced labor,” Misra stated in her testimony.

— Ryan Yanke

Sources: Foreign Relations 1, Foreign Relations 2, The Guardian
Photo: Irrawaddy

Forced_Labor_in_Uzbekistan
The grave problem of forced labor in Uzbekistan in the cotton industry is in the news again as the United States placed the country at the very bottom of its annual State Department Trafficking in Persons Report this June.

Uzbekistan has been categorized as “Tier 3,” which means that the government does not “comply with minimum standards to combat human trafficking and fails to take adequate steps to address the problem.” A county placed in this category will potentially face sanctions.

Uzbekistan is a country of about 30 million and has been ruled by President Islam Karimov since 1989. Over 80 percent of the country is Muslim and only 36 percent live in urban areas. The poverty levels are not terribly high at 16 percent and the literacy rate is almost at 100 percent. However, these statistics do not explain the whole story and the serious problem of forced labor.

Just last year an organization called the Cotton Campaign finally got the government to significantly reduce forced labor of children. The campaign arranged for many garment companies to boycott Uzbek cotton. This was a victory for the children but not for their parents. Instead of forcing children to pick cotton for about a month each year, the Uzbek government has moved the labor onto adults. About a million Uzbek citizens are forced to pick cotton each year.

Doctors, teachers and government employees are among some of the laborers who are transported to the farms sometime during the harvest season between September and November. These laborers are not beaten or tortured into picking cotton, however, if they refuse they face arrest. The Uzbek government calls these laborers “volunteers” in an attempt to ignore the reality of the situation.

Rights organizations as well as the International Labor Organization have a difficult time assessing or regulating the situation. The Uzbek government heavily restricts their work in the country and cracks down on its own activists.

The problem also extends further than just the forced labor. The entire industry is controlled by the government, making it possible to take advantage of the farmers as well. The farmers have to meet quotas and sell the cotton back to the government well below market prices. The government then exports the cotton to foreign companies at huge profits.

Those fighting for the rights of these laborers are happy with the action taken by the U.S. government. It “sends a message of solidarity to the well over a million Uzbeks forced to pick the country’s cotton crop.” Putting Uzbekistan in Tier 3 will help pave the way for possible sanctions. If the money flow for the Uzbek government were to stop or at least decrease, they might notice and change their policies on forced labor.

The success of Cotton Campaign last year to remove children as the primary cotton pickers is hope for the future. If boycotting can end child labor, perhaps sanctions could end the problem of forced labor entirely.

— Eleni Marino

Sources: UN, World Bank, Cotton Campaign, Human Rights Watch, New York Times
Photo: New York Times

forced labor
Forced labor around the world has generated $150 billion. Now, the United Nations has backed a treaty that will punish countries and companies who commit acts of forced labor.

Forced labor can be defined in many ways, with two-thirds of the profits mentioned coming from sexual exploitation. The rest comes from domestic and agricultural workers, which makes up domestic exploitation. Forced labor includes slavery as well as suspicious recruitment tactics.

The International Labor Organization recently documented 21 million involuntary laborers, citing this as a massive breach of human rights. The U.N. saw it fit to support this view and at a conference in Geneva, many countries showed support as well.

Notably, Thailand, still under military rule, and many middle eastern countries, declined the treaty.

ILO Director Guy Ryder acknowledged the huge feat ahead, citing education as one of the early steps to changing the current economic standings that forced labor flourishes in. In an interview with CBS News, Ryder says, “We need to strengthen social protection floors to prevent households from sliding into the poverty that pushes people into forced labor.”

The international victims of forced labor are 55 percent women and girls who are sexually exploited and serve as domestic laborers. Men and boys are often forced into mining and other agricultural positions. Their lack of education and impoverished upbringing create the perfect recipe for being tricked into forced labor.

Many companies trick their workers by having them sign a contract in one country and then relocating them and stripping them of their passports. By doing so, the workers are trapped in a different country with little means to escape. The inhumane behavior shown by employers across the world has come to the attention of the national stage and many countries refuse to allow its continuation.

In the Middle East, where many U.N. representatives refrained from the treaty, around 600,000 laborers are known to be forced in accordance to the ILO reports. Even with the snub of these countries and Thailand, the pact took the majority, and many countries plan to see changes in the near future for the way forced labor is handled.

Many of the countries that signed have vowed protection to victims of forced labor who were forced into criminal activities, acting as a barrier between those who have abused and the people that will face severe consequences.

— Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, CBS, Global Post
Photo: International Justice Mission

modern-slavery
Modern slavery is a major concern for our developing world. Modern slavery exists as a person being deprived of their freedom and rights. This is the right to leave a current job or workplace and the control over one’s own body. There are over 28 million people trapped in modern slavery.

Modern slavery can take the form of forced labor and human trafficking. All of these are forms of slavery and must be stopped. Countries like Russia and China have over 76 percent of the population trapped in some form of modern slavery.

The Walk Free Foundation is a driving force to end modern slavery in this generation. The foundation uses research and the help of businesses to gain a solid ground on the subject of modern slavery. The Walk Free foundation will look at the countries with high numbers of people in slavery and enlist partners to identify strategies to make a lasting impact on slavery.

New information provided by The Guardian states that it is possible that store-bought shrimp that lands on dinner tables across America is employed with forced slave labor. The shrimp is sold by major companies like Wal-Mart and Costco.

 Thailand’s forced slave market is connected to the global shrimp chain. These ships enslave many unsuspecting workers by beating them and at times even ending up in death. Most of the shrimp slave workers are captured to work without pay, and threatened with violence and death. There is no escape when at sea on these ships.

The slaves are forced at sea for years with shifts lasting over 20 hours. At times these men witness horrific and brutal execution-style killings of other slaves. These workers are coerced with hopes of finding work in factories, but are sold to boat captains, most likely to never return.

One victim states to The Guardian that at one time “20 workers were murdered in front of him.”

Aidan McQuade, director of the Anti-Slavery Movement, states that “if you buy shrimp from Thailand, you are purchasing a product of slave labour.”

Over half a million people are trapped in globalized slavery, even sex trafficking at Thailand’s borders. 300,000 of these victims of modern slavery are migrant workers tricked into the slave trade for fishing boats. The demand and pressure for cheaper fish and prawn from America and Europe creates a drive for even cheaper labour: slavery.

The possibility that Thailand’s sea port industry relies so much on forced slave labour that without it the industry would collapse. Wal-Mart and Costco both agree to require audits and proper corrective actions to be in effect towards the ending of the supplier’s slave trade.

Thailand’s fishing industry will be soon forced to change with new audits and anti-slavery actions taking place. The International Labour Organization will be conducting changes to ensure slavery free supply chains, especially those from Asia countries.

There are several companies that have been placing workers in unsafe working conditions and slavery. It is not just Thailand’s fishing industry committing these unethical practices. Companies compete for cheaper prices as the market grows for consumers. The correct process is on companies and consumers alike to make ethical decisions for workers around the world to receive humane and fair treatment.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Walk Free Foundation, Global Slavery Index, The Guardian
Photo: Eureka Street Australia

slave labor
A recent investigation by the Guardian in Southeast Asia has shed light on one of the darkest practices in the world: slave labor. Human trafficking of forced workers is far from something of the past and this sobering discovery shows just how close to home it gets.

Thailand is the largest prawn exporter in the world, shipping out 500,000 tons of shrimp annually in an estimated $7.3 billion industry. Ten percent of the supply comes from Chareon Pokphand (CP) Foods.

The goods are distributed to a handful of major international grocery retailers whose names are commonplace in Western households. The list of recipients includes huge outlets like Costco and Walmart in the United States and Carrefour and Tesco in Britain as well as a few additional European chains.

A six-month investigation by the Guardian revealed that slave labor fuels a majority of CP Food’s shrimp business through a chain of resource suppliers. The prawns themselves are grown in farms, but the source of the fishmeal that feeds the animals is linked to forced labor under inhumane conditions.

The fishmeal is produced by suppliers that own or buy the seafood byproduct from slave-manned ships and sold to CP Foods. Interviews with escaped slaves took investigators deep into the workings of the fishmeal trade which operates on illegal terms in international waters off the Thai coast.

The escapees report being forced to work 20 hour shifts at a time with no pay. The men were kept in chains and offered methamphetamines to keep them working through fatigue. They endured regular beatings, public-style executions and extreme torture which often led to death.

One of the most gruesome tales of execution involved a slave laborer whose limbs were tied to the bows of four boats and then pulled apart.

This is not the first time attention has been brought to the conditions of sea vessel workers in Thailand. Non-government Organizations and the U.N. have raised alarm multiple times over the past four years about the presence of slave labor in the country. There are currently 500,000 forced workers in Thailand according to the Thai government itself, with 300,000 in the fishing industry alone.

Thai brokers supply the majority of the workforce, 90 percent of which is made up of duped migrants from countries such as Cambodia and Burma. The immigrants pay the brokers to help them find work and are instead sold into slavery for as low as $420.

An anonymous government worker in Thailand told the Guardian that government officials are tied up with the Thai mafia in the human trafficking business and are reluctant to take preventative action. While the retail giants each take a different approach to their own investigations and negotiations, human rights groups and even CP Foods are calling for consumers to force action by boycotting prawns from the suppliers.

Slavery is illegal in every country in the world but 21 million men, women and children are enslaved globally according to the International Labor Organization. Thailand runs the risk of standing with North Korea and Iran at a tier 3 grade, the lowest U.S. ranking on the human trafficking index.

 — Edward Heinrich

Sources: The Guardian, Gawker, CBS News
Photo: Flickr