Slave ships & supermarkets: Modern day slavery in Thailand | Guardian Investigations

Slave ships & supermarkets: Modern day slavery in Thailand | Guardian Investigations


Prawns – or shrimp if you’re American – once
a luxury – are now an everyday pleasure. Cheap for us to buy; the human cost of their
production is unimaginable. People are sold onto and tortured on these
boats This is the story of globalised slavery; and
how giant international supermarkets like Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour, Morrisons and Iceland
are selling prawns fed by slave labour. I’ve seen 18, 20 people killed in front of
me… The Thai fishing industry is rife with abuse,
torture and summary executions. The captain kept on torturing him and yelling
and beating him and at last he gave him electric shocks. After all the electric shocks … the
guy couldn’t even stand. And then he shot him and threw him into the sea. Thailand is the world’s largest supplier of
prawns. A six month Guardian investigation-has traced
the complex food chain from the boat to supermarket shelf – proving for the first time – that
the low price of the prawns on your plate depends on slave labour. Late at night a cargo boat slips into one
of Thailand’s busiest ports. On board is Vuthy, a man who hasn’t seen land in over 18 months. ….he’s coming he’s walking behind the guy
with the check shirt Like many Thai ports this is a hub for human
trafficking, where an INTERNATIONAL network of slave traders often buy and sell migrants
onto Thailand’s illegal fishing boats. And he isn’t safe. “I want to get him out of here, there are
many bad people over there. I want to get him out of here.” The last time he was back on land, he was
tricked and sold onto another boat. This time his freedom has been bought by a local charity,
for just £450. Terrified and confused, and unaware that he
is free, Vuthy fears that he’s about to be trafficked again – even free he still afraid
to show his face on camera. Will I have to go back (to sea?) No you won’t, don’t worry Don’t be afraid they’ve paid to free you I’m the one who’s paid to get you out of there they will send you back home you can go home now A former monk from Cambodia, he was, until
today, part of the invisible migrant workforce that props up Thailand’s multibillion dollar
prawn industry. They kept me chained me up, they didn’t care
about me or give me any food. He kept me outside in the wind and rain. All the workers were the same as me. We were treated like animals. But we’re not
animals, we’re human beings. Each year thousands of migrants pay brokers
large sums of money to smuggle them into Thailand in search of a better life. With his parents struggling to feed 6 children,
Aung Myo left Burma to help provide for his siblings. “The broker told me how much I would get if
I worked in Thailand. It was an easy job, he said.” After his mother died, Kyaw was abandoned
by his father. He lived as a pagoda boy until he left rural Burma as a teenager. “I figured that I’d save some money, go back
to Myanmar, get married and start a family.” I risked my life to come here. The journey was awful . It took 7 days. If we were too tired to walk they’d kick us
and torture us to force us on Somehow we found the strength to keep going. Some people died on the way and some were
left behind We were told to lie down on the floor of the
trucks in rows Three people stacked on top of each other I was at the bottom and I couldn’t breathe I thought I was going to die. It was only after we drove out towards the
boats that one of the guys with us who’d been trafficked before said – do you see those
boats? We’ve been sold. I just stared. I was so depressed I wanted to die. Official Thai figures estimate there are up
to 300,000 people working in the Thai fishing industry. The vast majority of these are migrants. Only a fraction are registered….. ….the rest are ‘ghosts’. And ‘ghosts’ are good business for the corrupt
brokers, police and Thai officials who prey on them. One high-level broker agreed to talk on condition
of anonymity. If you talk about the police and the brokers
we are more like partners. And we have Thai border officials who help
us traffic the migrants through. It’s a big chain and we all have to get paid The boat captains pay the brokers around £450
for each worker, but once on board the men are forced to work for nothing until they
have paid off this debt. I negotiate directly with the boat owners.
As long as they’re willing to pay my fee, then I will arrange to bring the workers over. Then the workers have to pay off the debt
[to the captain]. That’s the way it works. These men are chattel slaves, trapped miles
out at sea, catching the fish that feed Thailand’s prawn farming industry. Without them, the industry would collapse. Many of the prawns we eat in the West come
from CP Foods’ prawn farms, and some of their feed contains trash fish. This trash fish is the inedible and infant
fish normally thrown away in the West. It’s sorted from the rest of the catch and
loaded onto large cargo ships, which ferry it back to shore. It is turned into fishmeal and becomes part
of the fishfeed fed to the prawns which CP Foods supply to manufacturers and retailers
all over the world. Just about every retailer in the United Kingdom
buys material from CP. Thai owned CP Foods are the largest prawn
farmers on the planet. They supply most of the leading supermarkets
including Tescos, Walmart, Morrison’s Co op and Iceland with frozen prawns and ready made
meals. These products come at a low cost for the
consumer, but at a high price for those at sea. Sleeping in cramped and filthy conditions,
many survive on nothing more than one plate of rice a day. The work is backbreaking and dangerous, hauling
nets and sorting fish for up to 22hrs a day. Those that slip up face the wrath of their
Thai boat captain. We were close and cared for each other, encouraging
one another. The rest of us including all the Burmese on
all the other boats were trafficked. There were so many of us, it would be impossible
to count them all. With little contact with the outside world,
the only escape for many is suicide. Of the dozens of fishermen that the Guardian
spoke to during our investigation, most had witnessed at least one. He just jumped into the sea right in front
of me. I looked at him, he put his hands up …. I kept watching him. He sank into the
sea. He killed himself like he wanted. Slaves who rebel are dealt with brutally and
publically as an example to others. One eyewitness recounted what happened to
a fellow fisherman who attacked his boat captain. The other captains came and pinned him down.
His hands and legs were tied up with rope to the bows and he was pulled apart by the
four boats. That terrified me! A lucky few escape. After 6 months on a boat, Ayun Myo took his
chances and escaped into the night. I could make out ever so faintly some lights
at shore. So I tied the buoy around my waist and swam towards the lights – I floated and
finally washed up to shore I had no idea where I was. It was already
getting light – I was just running aimlessly through the jungle. He was lucky – some slaves never make it back
to land, and instead are sold from boat to boat for years on end. In a corner of Songkhla port we found one
Burmese migrant back on land for the first time in almost two years. He was to be a vital link in the supply chain
proving the connection between slaves and the prawns on our plate. I was cheated and sold by a broker and sent
to Kantang. After I realised what had happened I told them I wanted to go back (to Burma).
They told me I couldn’t go. When I tried to escape they beat me and smashed all my teeth. We spoke to a crew member whose cargo boat
brought the Burmese slave back to shore. There are 4 fishermen (slaves) including him
on that trawler. The other three are still To find out where the catch was going we spoke
to the boat captain. – Does this boat owner have a factory for
trashfish? – Yes. Then we followed the delivery truck to see
which factory it was going to. This fish came from the (factory owner’s)
own boat. And they also buy from other boats. They own about ten boats. So the owner of the factory is the owner of
the boat as well? Yes. So the (factory) owner owns the cargo boats
and the trawlers? Yes, the cargo boats and also the trawlers. We always buy fish from the cargo boats that
buy from the trawlers at sea. We don’t sell to normal customers, we only
send [our fishmeal] to the CP factory. This was proof that CP are buying fishmeal
containing trash fish caught by slaves. Our research found that whether they had their
own boats or not, factories were buying from cargo boats and trawlers, some of which had
slaves, and some did not. The Guardian investigated several other fishmeal
factories that also supply CP and found again and again that slaves were part of their supply
chain. CP pays a premium to fishmeal factories that
claim to buy trash fish caught by legal and licensed boats. But they never perform independent spot checks… …and have no idea what is happening out
at sea. Even if they did the fishing licenses are
easily faked. Unaware that he was being filmed the manager
of one cargo boat told the Guardian how it works. Where do you buy the licenses from? We use ghost licenses! [fake] Ghost licenses! We keep the real license on one boat and the
fake one on the other boats. How many boats do you think use fake licenses? Most of the boats. However according to Dr WAR-ah-pahn PROM-pozh,
an international fisheries expert, and government advisor, this problem, she says is one of
the past. Those who do not have registration cannot
perform fishing in Thai waters – or even in international waters. We don’t see that sort
of ghost ship to happen in this situation right now. Things have changed a lot. The boat manager explained how the illegal
catch and unlicensed vessels get away with it so easily. Do these boats get into any trouble with the
Thai police? No, they don’t. I’m a policeman. You’re a policeman? Really? Are you still
a policeman now? I have many ways to make money! Well if I am here they [port authorities]
won’t impound the boats [catch]. The Thai authorities say that combatting human
trafficking is a top national priority. Yet when the Guardian gave the Thai navy coordinates
for the boats from which Vuthy was rescued, they took no immediate action. Thailand is America’s second largest seafood
supplier. Failure to act now may force the US to downgrade Thailand to the lowest tier
of their Trafficking in Persons index, which could lead to economic sanctions and would
see them ranked alongside countries like North Korea and Iran. Maybe that will lead the Thai government to
realise that it is not just forming taskforces or passing laws but in fact enforcement that
matters. There is no connectivity between labour inspectors
and law enforcement to hold traffickers to account, and actually the government is all
too often complicit with corruption. The Thai authorities may lack the political
will to deal with slavery, but much of the responsibility still falls to the retailers
and supermarkets who bring the prawns to our plate. Campaigners like Steve Trent say they have
been warning supermarkets about slavery for years. They can say to suppliers – if you don’t make
sure – adhere to our rules and regulations we will no longer purchase from you .. and
that sends out a very powerful message When asked to comment on our findings of slavery
in their supply chain, the top four global retailers, Wal-mart, Tesco, Carrefour and
CostCo and other big name supermarkets including Morrison’s, the Cooperative, Aldi, and Iceland
all condemned it. Some admitted they were aware that slavery
had been reported in the Thai fishing sector, and were setting up programmes to try to tackle
it. All declined to be interviewed. CP Food’s Bob Miller was the ONLY representative
of the industry prepared to face the cameras and address the Guardian’s revelations. It doesn’t do us any great benefit to know
that there is trafficking going on – that people are being disadvantaged in this way
and the more we find out . . ., then the more uncomfortable we become. We’d like to solve the problems of Thailand
because there’s no doubt that commercial interests have created much of this problem and it will
be to the commercial aspects of the industry that the solutions will have to come. And those solutions, say campaigners, are
going to mean that the big name supermarkets have to pay if they want to take slavery out
of the prawn and shrimp supply chain. …they are actively supporting slavery by
not acting, and conversely they could be actively working to get rid of it if they really had
a desire… When I first came to Thailand I used to think
we are all equal but it’s not like that here. They beat us – but why? We’re considered worthless. The fish is more valuable than we are. We are less than human.


46 thoughts on “Slave ships & supermarkets: Modern day slavery in Thailand | Guardian Investigations

  1. The best way to combat these types of things is to shine a light on them. Let the world know what these roaches are doing and they will flee the light ! Sharing at Google+

  2. You say Slavery is Back Brother,I say Slavery has Never left!! Ever.Apartheid stll exist's. As liong as there is Poverty,There Will be Slavery.I Don't buy Shrimp or Prawn's.Heartbreaking .

  3. this really makes me very angry. This is the crap that the Yellow Shirts and Royalists of Thai want to protect. 

  4. here is some more info I found about this evilness. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/supermarket-prawns-thailand-produced-slave-labour
    Also, I have already written a letter to Cosco and Walmart. I beg you to do the same. 

  5. Great video and investigative journalism. Hopefully, at least partly through your findings, this completely disgusting and immoral slave trade is greatly reduced, and, sooner than later, altogether stopped. 

  6. Yet another example of corporations treating people like dirt just to make a quick buck. This is shocking. When are we going to actually stand up to these businesses and say enough is enough?

  7. Damn so I've supported this crime when I bought frozen prawns in the supermarket. 🙁 Better go vegan.

  8. as long as we keep buying there products it 'll nt stop..
    they don't feel fear ..the cops back them up..and they don't give a damn shit cause they gain money..and in poor countries, if you have money ;you become your  own coverment,,

  9. Warning, graphic images.
    Because of animated parts of this docu. many may not believe this part of human trafficking is ligit.
    Based on past experience with young man years ago who was in fear for his life, he relayed a few stories to me in his broken english.
    Mahalo Guardian for shining another light.
    Please help End modern day slavery. Aloha 💋

  10. OMG. This is so sad yet no surprising for a Thai. CP is one of the biggest and the most powerful company here. Mr. Thanin is a big PRO-ROYALIST. He has power and great connections with the government and royal family.

    It's just too sad to think that Thailand has the richest and the kindest king in the world, and this still happens.. And so many more people can't even access clean water.

    Well, maybe the COUP will improve our conditions somehow.

  11. this is only because of governemnt…only by force and coercion made by teritorial monopoly of goveremnt these "evil" corporation are able do this type of business..so uf you want to stop that slavery, you have to stop governemnt from existence !

  12. The Thai fishery that worse than Piracy.
    The Fishery in Thailand government never care to this slavery problem and let them do this. maybe they bribe or something else
    that sad story

  13. I used to live on the east coast and bodies would be found washed up at least once a week in and around the sattahip area there were never any investigations I often wonderd what was going on. Fucking evil bastards how the steal peoples freedom like this well these rat bastard thai fisheries and the likes of cp need to pay Boycott all thai fish end off hit them were it hurts rotton people only understand this type of response. Big business will have to think twice in dealing with thailand in general as they have been relegated to the lowest rank by tip they know sit with the likes of north Korea and saudi Arabia. The state many of the construction workers live in pretty shocking too iam sure if you look into over industrys in thailand many more horrors storys will exist, very sad lets hope that the consumer is willing to understand this issue I do fear though the likes of cp will just cover this up and continue trading in misery. 

  14. This is absolutely appalling.. I'm so sick of greed . . Everyday someone is waking up to the truth… just added shrimp to my boycott list.. Funny thing is I'm saving more and more money with a smaller shopping list ..thanks guardian for all the light you shed.

  15. May peace & safety come to Myanmar, Cambodia & Thailand. May labor all over the world be free from suffering like this. 

  16. CP foods..finally it`s kinds of foreign Chinese…
    They are same even in Phillipines. People seem not to able to resist to them.

    By the way,American company has been selling mad meats to Chinese recently..
    How much is their international reliabity?

  17. Thailand.. We should create an army of volontuers, call ourself the
    "Unsullied" , the breaker of chains (gof yay)
    Thailand must be purged of slavery, what does it matter if you will never have shrimps anymore?
    The Thai economy will undoubtly colapse, we will rebuild that, we will have powerful friends like the Un.'
    Who is with me?

  18. The irony of Humanity: Some ppl in the west wants humane treatment in the food industries. But most only want cheap prices and don't give a shit. There's never  equality in humanity, wake the fuck up.

  19. So we're going to ban the flag of Thailand, right? And Meow Mix will be pulled off the shelves and Thai restaurants will be boycotted, right? Right?!!

  20. As a Thai person, the main reason that Thailand's government has not been working hard enough to stop this problem is because they are busy dealing with political instability for 9 years since 2006. Most of Thai people still not believe or know that this kind of thing is still existed here since we abolished slavery 300 years ago. I were also shocked when I first heard this news last year. Right now, our military pm is still cracking down this traffickers but it may take time. There's always something very stupid and unusual things happening in Thailand. Even I'm from Thailand myself, and I still don't understand how this could happen in this country, and it always bring shame to our country yet again. I want you to know that this does not represent the whole country. It was JUST committed by a small pure evil community but it hurts the country as a whole.

    Right now, I know that Thailand is been targeted for the terrorist attacks and we would see this as a karma from the sins that we committed which the whole country needs to pay for it.

    I feel sorry and want to apologise on behalf of the whole country.

  21. like i said befor usa needs go over there and kick there ass because usa is over everyone in this world we tell them what do

  22. Oh, the world and the economical issues in it are so interwoven. Lads in the UK have to buy chip shrimps, because everything else they get on installments and paying interests on them is no laughing matter. Then if Tesco goes fair and humane restricting every product related to slavery boats in Thailand, but others do not, it will sink financially, and UK slaves in shopping business will loose their work providing them with money they hurriedly give out to instalments' business and banks. That's capitalism, babe $))

  23. I happened to glance into the eyes of an emaciated slave worker when returning on the ferry to Ranong fishing port, following a pleasant and relaxing trip to Koh Phayam.
    He was just one of many forced to unload the haul from the fishing boats that day.
    The horror, fear and absolute desperation I see in those eyes I will never forget.
    Sickening.

  24. You think CP doesn't know this is going on ??? THEY ARE the main player involved! They are corrupt and have ALWAYS been corrupt ever since the owner's family came to Thailand from China! They pay off the military, who controls the country.

  25. Dr. Strange narrated it. Cool. Boycott killing of animals. Think you like Avacados? Go down that rabbit hole. Cartels a many! So much avacado murder

  26. Capitalism creates this kind of inhumane expoitation.
    Whenever there is focus on profit over people,there will be modern slavery or some form of exploitation.
    These big supermarkets are equally complacent and they aren't doing enough as it would affect their profit margins just like with blood diamonds or the Thai textile industry!
    This is so heartbreaking 😥

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