In recent years the Thai seafood industry has been found to be rife with human rights abuses, including the forced labour of migrant workers aboard fishing vessels and in seafood processing plants. Thailand is the world’s fourth largest exporter of seafood, and it exports 40% of its catch to the United States and the EU. Much of the shrimp found in western supermarkets has been caught by victims of forced labour.
Migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos travelling to Thailand to find work often have no knowledge about labour rights, migrant worker registration, how to access redress in the case of workplace complaints or many other topics related to their work. Uninformed and vulnerable, migrant workers in Thailand are often exploited and deceived into situations of bonded labour.
The Freedom Fund’s Thailand hotspot seeks to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery in the seafood industry by strengthening civil society organisations that work with marginalised migrant workers. One of our partners, the MAP Foundation, provides outreach services and legal counselling to migrant workers and forced labour survivors.
Through outreach activities in migrant workers’ communities, MAP has connected thousands of individuals with information, training several of them to become community leaders and workers’ representatives. MAP assisted twelve Burmese workers to win a case against their employer, who had more money and held considerable influence.
“In the beginning MAP’s staff came to my area and conducted a training on labour rights, but at that moment I didn’t feel that it really related to my personal life so I didn’t pay much attention to it,” said Tun Tun Lin, one of the workers whom MAP assisted. However, shortly after MAP conducted their training, Tun Tun and eleven of his friends suffered a workplace injustice. He then asked MAP to organise a meeting to explain Thailand’s labour laws and the process for registering for a migrant worker card.
“Without MAP, my friends and I would not know what we would face because our employer intimidated us all the time,” Tun Tun recalled. His employer had connections with government officials, and he threatened to pull strings if Tun Tun and his friends went ahead with their complaint.
In spite of the employer’s intimidation tactics, Tun Tun pursued the case with MAP’s support. “Our lives changed after our case was finished,” he said. “After receiving compensation, we felt very satisfied because at the beginning we thought that we were just Burmese migrant workers and how could we do anything to our employer? The employer had money and knew many people.”
He continued: “After we received the money, some of us could stand firm and re-register for a further two years without borrowing money so we would not suffer from debt and interest payments. Some of us found jobs at another place. We felt very glad that we could fight until we received compensation.”
The Freedom Fund’s Thailand hotspot aims to significantly reduce slavery in the Thai seafood industry. Learn more.