March 25, 2015
#AceNewsReport – Editors Post: INDONESIA:MARCH.25: The Burmese slaves sat on the floor and stared through the rusty bars of their locked cage, hidden on a tiny tropical island thousands of miles from home AP reported.
Just a few yards away, other workers loaded cargo ships with slave-caught seafood that clouds the supply networks of major supermarkets, restaurants and even pet stores in the United States.
Tainted fish can wind up in the supply chains of some of America’s major grocery stores, such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway; the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart; and the biggest food distributor, Sysco. It can find its way into the supply chains of some of the most popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams.
It can turn up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on our dinner tables.
In a year-long investigation, the AP interviewed more than 40 current and former slaves in Benjina. The AP documented the journey of a single large shipment of slave-caught seafood from the Indonesian village, including squid, snapper, grouper and shrimp, and tracked it by satellite to a gritty Thai harbour.
Upon its arrival, AP journalists followed trucks that loaded and drove the seafood over four nights to dozens of factories, cold storage plants and the country’s biggest fish market.
Though this story is one of many as the Guardian reported about one such fisherman sold into slavery aboard a boat. It was under the tinny roof of Songkhla’s commercial port, on Thailand’s south-east coast, the imperial-blue cargo boat that brought Myint Thein back to shore is unloading its catch, barrel by barrel. The day’s international fish trading has just begun, and buyers are milling about in bright yellow rubber boots, running slimy scales between their fingers, as hobbling cats nibble at the fishbones and guts strewn across the pavement.
Myint Thein doesn’t have much time to talk, so he tells us the basics. He paid a middleman two years ago to smuggle him across the border into Thailand and find him a job in a factory. After an arduous journey travelling through dense jungle, over bumpy roads and across rough waves, Myint Thein finally arrived in Kantang, a Thai port on its western, Andaman coast, where he discovered he’d been sold to a boat captain.
“When I realised what had happened, I told them I wanted to go back,” he says hurriedly. “But they wouldn’t let me go. When I tried to escape, they beat me and smashed all my teeth.”
For the next 20 months, Myint Thein and three other Burmese men who were also sold to the boat trawled international waters, catching anything from squid and tuna to “trash fish”, also known as bycatch – inedible or infant species of fish later ground into fish-meal for Thailand’s multi-billion-dollar farmed prawn industry.
The supply chain runs from the slaves through the fishmeal to the prawns to UK and US retailers. The product of Myint Thein’s penniless labour might well have ended up on your dinner plate.
According to the Global Slavery Index 2014 the products being harvested as greater profits for Thailand and other western companies are fish, prawn and garments.
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Disclaimer: This article was not written by Lorra B.