Bad Cocktail: Labor Abuse in Thailand’s Shrimp Industry America's appetite for inexpensive shrimp from Southeast Asia is growing, but at what cost? In Thailand, illegal and abusive labor practices go unchecked to feed a booming demand. Launched September 20, 2012
Shrimp is big business in Thailand, thanks to an appetite in the United States that continues to grow. Today, a third of country’s exported shrimp goes to the U.S., its top customer, where retail giants like Walmart and Costco do high-volume sales and suburban Red Lobsters offer bargain blue plate specials. Breakthroughs in aquaculture have helped Thai producers keep up with the rising demand, but there’s a catch to their success: an invisible underclass of Burmese migrant workers, thousands of whom labor in sub-human conditions to keep costs down.
Of the estimated 200,000 Burmese migrants working in Samut Sakhon province, the heartland of the Thai shrimp industry, about a third are unregistered and subject to rights abuses. Independent monitors say that thousands desperate to escape the poverty and dictatorship of their homeland cross the border only to find themselves trapped in bonded labor that’s tantamount to slavery. Sold by brokers to crooked factory owners, they are forced to endure long hours for pitiful wages, physical abuse and intimidation. Many are children who do not meet Thai working age requirements. Their plight is made worse, critics say, by the profit-induced apathy of Thai authorities who turn a blind eye or are complicit in abuses. Steve Sapienza and Jason Motlagh investigate exploitative labor practices at the lower levels of the supply chain.
Jason Motlagh is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. Until recently TIME Magazine’s Kabul correspondent, he has reported from around Afghanistan and more than 35 countries for leading U.S...
Stephen Sapienza is an award-winning news and documentary producer who has covered a wide range of human security stories, including the HIV crisis in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, child...
September 24, 2012 / The Washington Post
In a world hungry for cheap shrimp, Burmese migrants are the backbone of a Thai shrimp industry that is the world’s third largest. But low prices often come at their expense.
September 21, 2012 / PBS NewsHour
STEPHEN SAPIENZA, JASON MOTLAGH
The world--and especially the U.S--wants cheap shrimp. For the $1 billion plus shrimping industry in Thailand, satisfying this appetite comes at the expense of workers.
September 20, 2012 / The Washington Post
Thanks to a bottomless appetite for inexpensive shrimp in the West, Burmese migrants are the backbone of a Thai shrimp industry that is the world’s third largest. But there's a darker side.
"We will illuminate dark places and, with a deep sense of responsibility, interpret these troubled times."
JOSEPH PULITZER III (1913-1993)