Thomas Nugroho


Supermarket giants in Thailand for prawn slavery talks
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 6:19 pm
Filed under: IPB

Morrisons and Tesco join Oxfam and others to create a taskforce to tackle slavery and trafficking in the seafood industry

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jul/30/supermarkets-thailand-prawn-slavery-seafood (retrieved 22/07/2015)

UK and US supermarket groups are meeting in Thailand this week to create a taskforce to tackle trafficking and forced labour in the shrimp feed industry.

The talks follow a Guardian investigation last month that uncovered slavery in the supply chains of Thai seafood sold to major international retail brands.

The three-day meeting will be hosted by Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, the world’s largest prawn farmer, which the Guardian found buys fishmeal from suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boards manned with slaves.

Morrisons, Tesco and Costco US, which buy farmed shrimp from CP Foods, are among the retailers expected to attend the talks with Thai government representatives. Several international catering and food-service firms including Sodexo, Brakes as well as campaigners from Oxfam and the Environmental Justice Foundation will be among the attendees.

CP Foods acted after several retailers, including Whole Foods and Carrefour, pulled out of CP contracts in Thailand after the revelations.

The six-month inquiry into Thailand’s seafood industry found slavery was helping to fuel one of the country’s major export economies, and that men were being bought and sold like cattle and kept against their will on ships for years without pay and under the threat of violence.

The aim of the meeting is to agree on the terms of an industry action group, which will work with CP Foods to establish a global benchmark in sustainable shrimp-feed production. It will also help the Thai government create a strategy to halt human trafficking and forced labour in the seafood supply chain.

According to sources, in addition to meetings in Bangkok with senior Thai officials, activities will include trips to CP Foods’ fish-feed factories and new production lines as well as to the southern coastal province of Songkhla to talk to fishing boat owners to get “real feedback from the ground”.

“A number of suppliers are meeting CP this week to ensure that our concerns are being addressed,” Morrisons said. “We’ll also be meeting with other suppliers in the area to ensure collaboration rather than duplication of effort.”

Sodexo said it was attending the meeting to better understand CP’s food supply chain and measures being taken to improve labour conditions in the Thai seafood industry.



Labour call to stop UK supermarkets stocking food produced by slaves
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 6:17 pm
Filed under: News

It is up to consumers whether they eat prawns processed in Thailand using slave labour, says Cameron’s spokesman

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/11/slavery-prawns-thailand-supermarkets-labour (retrieved 22/07/2015)

Labour has called on the government to stop UK supermarkets stocking food produced by slaves, after a Guardian investigation into forced labour in the Thai seafood industry.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the coalition’s modern slavery bill did not go far enough to turn up the pressure on UK retailers to shun products linked to forced labour. The opposition is pushing for new requirements on firms to declare any use of slavery in their supply chains but the government prefers a voluntary approach.

David Cameron’s spokesman said on Wednesday it was up to consumers whether they choose to eat prawns that had been produced through the work of slaves.

The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that slavery is integral to the production of prawns available in leading global supermarkets including Tesco, Walmart, Costco and Carrefour.

Its six-month investigation discovered that slaves are being forced to work in Asia for no pay for years at a time, under threat of extreme violence, in the production of seafood sold by major US, British and other European retailers.

“The allegations in this investigation are shocking,” said Cooper. “Trafficking people into slavery is an abhorrent crime and the international community should work together to stamp it out entirely. We have called for greater transparency in supply chains to ensure products that have been produced through forced labour do not end up on our shelves. The government’s modern slavery bill doesn’t go far enough to address this and we will be pushing for changes to ensure companies are more accountable for the actions of those in their supply chain.”

Frank Field, the Labour MP who chaired the parliamentary committee on the slavery bill, said supermarkets must “immediately cease” using suppliers linked to seafood slavery.

He also blamed Downing Street for resisting new reporting requirements for fear of increasing red tape, even though most companies are not opposed to the transparency initiative.

“It was clearly the home secretary’s wish to include a supply chain clause because she wrote about this, but that wish is being blocked,” said Field. “It is coming from No 10. There is a perceived belief what business wants without actually knowing. We marshalled a huge amount of support from business for a supply chain clause. If they paid a bit of attention they would know most business wanted them to do this.”

There would be a “huge effort” in the Commons and Lords to introduce amendments about slavery in supply chains, Field added.

Lady Butler-Sloss, a former senior judge who also sat on the committee, said the Guardian’s investigation underlined the need for action on slavery in company supply chains.

Butler-Sloss, a trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation, said: “The government has come a very long way on the bill and I am absolutely delighted it is being passed, but so far as the supply chain is concerned it is very weak. The brilliant detective work by the Guardian is a very good example of why actually we need the quite modest amendment we recommended, which is to add modern slavery to human rights in the Companies Act.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said slavery was not a problem that can be solved by legislation alone or by the end of the parliament. “It needs the engagement and long term commitment of all sections of society,” she said. “Companies have a social responsibility to ensure that those they do business with are not involved in the exploitation of others. If businesses take no action they risk both their reputation and profit.

“Today, the home secretary and minister for modern slavery Karen Bradley, have hosted a roundtable with key business leaders to look at how the government can work with businesses to eliminate forced labour and exploitation from supply chains.”

In contrast to the reaction of the US, which is considering blacklisting Thailand over slavery in its seafood industry, Downing Street indicated on Wednesday that it preferred to leave the matter to the choice of shoppers.

Asked whether supermarkets should stop stocking seafood produced with the help of forced labour, Cameron’s spokesman said: “Consumer standards and retail standards and social responsibility is often driven by consumers and rightly so.”

He could not say whether Cameron himself would be happy to eat prawns where slavery had been used in their production.

The Home Office said it took the issue extremely seriously and had not ruled out legislating to make reporting requirements tougher for companies. Theresa May, the home secretary, is meeting business leaders on Wednesday to discuss eradicating slavery from supply chains. However, it is understood the voluntary approach is favoured at present.

The government is bringing in new penalties to deter modern slavery through the bill unveiled in the Queen’s speech, but this has been criticised for its narrow focus on slavery in the UK and failure to tackle the problem of goods produced through slavery abroad.

However, the Home Office said the government wanted to work collaboratively with businesses to support them to eliminate forced labour in supply chains “in a way which does not place additional burdens on them”.

It also pointed out that the EU was likely to enact new laws in 2016 forcing companies to report on human rights in their “business relationships”, which could mean an expectation on firms to audit their supply chains for signs of slavery.

“In taking any further action in this area, the government is, therefore, mindful of existing requirements on business and possible future changes to the business reporting regime,” the Home Office said.

“We intend to build on the existing legislative framework, and work with business to establish what more can be done to raise awareness among their workforce and their subcontractors, and develop an evidence base on best practice. The home secretary is meeting with business leaders in June to help assess the most effective way forward.

“In doing so, we recognise the complexity of supply chain issues, particularly where they involve links with business overseas and where the influence of UK-based companies is diminished. Cross-government action is being taken to bring businesses together to discuss the challenges and opportunities in tackling modern slavery in supply chains.”



Prawns sold in Australia linked to alleged slavery in Thai fishing industry
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 6:11 pm
Filed under: News

The Australian arm of prawn farmer Charoen Pokphand Foods denounces slavery and promises audit of its supply chain

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/12/prawns-sold-in-australia-linked-to-alleged-slavery-in-thai-fishing-industry (Retrieved 22/07/2015)

The Australian arm of a seafood company alleged to have slavery in its supply chain has circulated a statement addressing concerns raised by a Guardian UK investigation, saying the entire operation would be audited.

On Tuesday the Guardian revealed the world’s largest prawn farmer, Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

“A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco,” the Guardian reported.

In 2012, CP Foods opened a Melbourne office, and according to its official Facebook page the brand’s “Authentic Asia” range of frozen meals are supplied to Woolworths, Costco, 7-Eleven and selected IGA stores.

The group’s general manager for Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands, Richard Lovell, circulated a statement on Thursday afternoon from CP Foods’ headquarters in Thailand.

“Fundamentally CP believes that from factory to fishing boat each and every person who works for CP, with CP as a supplier or through any part of CP’s supply chain must, as an absolute minimum be treated fairly and with dignity at all times,” the statement said.

“To this end we are currently in the process of auditing our entire operation so that we can denounce slavery across each and every aspect of our supply chain.”

Long-term the company would commit to tightening the control of fishmeal procurement in order to clamp down on illegal, unregulated and uncertified fishing, the statement said.

“CP are the only representatives of the entire industry who have been prepared to face the cameras and answer questions,” it added.

The regional marketing manager of Costco Wholesale in Australia, Kyla White, said the company had reviewed Guardian UK reports concerning labour abuses in the Thai fishing industry.

The agreements that Costco Wholesale had with its suppliers prohibited the use of slave labour and other violations of labour law, she said.

“We are committed to working with our suppliers of Thai shrimp to require them to take corrective action to police their feedstock sources with respect to poor labour practices,” she said.

“This commitment so far has involved visits by our buying staff to Thailand and discussions with the Thai government, our suppliers and other industry participants.”

The communications manager of 7-Eleven, Tracy Hammon, said the chain currently carried one CP Foods product. “However, as part of our normal range review process, we have recently decided to stop ranging this product as it does not meet sales benchmarks,” she said. “We are therefore in the processing of exiting the remaining volume of this one product from our stores.”

Woolworths and IGA have not yet responded to requests for comment from Guardian Australia.

The Seafood Importers Association of Australia executive chairman, Norman Grant, said it was extremely unlikely that any seafood products from Asia on sale for human consumption in Australia would be from sources where workers had been trafficked or mistreated.

“That’s largely because most of the seafood Australia imports from Asia comes from aquaculture, not wild catch,” Grant said. “Hence, not directly from Thai fishing boats – the sector where most serious abuse cases now occur.”

The association had been working for many years to find solutions to the enormous social problems faced by Thailand in dealing with millions of immigrant workers, many of whom are illegal and find employment in seafood-related sectors such as processing factories, he said.

Members of the association are asked to seek written assurance that their suppliers comply with local labour laws, are signed on to industry conventions and initiatives on labour welfare, and provide evidence of a systematic approach to ensuring supply chains are free of labour abuse.

Grant said the association took the issue of slave labour seriously, but also pointed out the problems faced by Thailand such as immigration across vast geographical areas, borders and oceans.

“Thailand has essentially been left to sort this out by itself, under the spotlight of an unforgiving and largely unhelpful western consumer morality,” he said.



Walmart, Tesco and Costco among retailers responding to revelations of slavery in prawn supply chains
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 6:08 pm
Filed under: News

Global retailers condemn human trafficking, with some saying they were aware of reports of slavery and are trying to tackle it

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/walmart-tesco-costco-retailers-respond-prawn-supply-slaves (retrieved 22/07/2015)

The Thai food giant CP Foods says it sells prawns to many leading supermarkets in the US, UK and across Europe.

The Guardian identified several of its customers and traced CP prawns to all of the top four global retailers – Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco – and other big-name supermarkets including Morrisons, the Co-operative, Aldi and Iceland.

We asked those named in our investigation to comment on our finding of slavery in their supply chains.

All said they condemned slavery and human trafficking for labour and conducted rigorous social audits. Some appeared already aware that slavery had been reported in the Thai fishing sector and said they were setting up programmes to try to tackle it.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said: “We are actively engaged in this issue and playing an important role in bringing together stakeholders to help eradicate human trafficking from Thailand’s seafood export sector.”

Carrefour said it conducts social audits of all suppliers, including the CP factory that supplies it with some prawns. It tightened up the process after alerts in 2012. It admitted that it did not check right to the end of its complex chains.

Costco told us it required its suppliers of Thai shrimp “to take corrective action to police their feedstock sources”.

Tesco said: “We regard slavery as completely unacceptable. We are working with CP Foods to ensure the supply chain is slavery-free, and are also working in partnership with the International Labour Organisation and Ethical Trading Initiative to achieve broader change across the Thai fishing industry.”

Morrisons said it would take the matter up with CP Foods urgently. “We are concerned by the findings of the investigation. Our ethical trading policy forbids the use of forced labour by suppliers and their suppliers.”

The Co-operative was among those claiming it was already working to understand “working conditions beyond the processing level”. “The serious issue of human trafficking on fishing boats is challenging to address and requires a partnership” in which it is actively engaged, it said.

Aldi UK said its contractual terms stipulate that suppliers do not engage in any form of forced labour. “Aldi will not tolerate workplace practices and conditions which violate basic human rights.”

Iceland said it only sourced one line containing prawns from a CP Foods subsidiary but was pleased to note that CP was “at the forefront of efforts to raise standards in the Thai fishing industry”.

The supermarket sector has been aware of conditions on some Thai fishing vessels for a while, thanks to reports from the UN and NGOs. In a 2009 survey by the UN inter-agency project on human trafficking (UNIAP) 59% of migrants who had been trafficked on to Thai fishing boats said they had seen the murder of a fellow worker.

The Environmental Justice Foundation also reported on slavery and forced labour imposed by violence on Thai trawlers and alleged police collusion.

Retailers have focused, however, on abuses that came to light further up the Thai prawn supply chain – in processing and packing factories or in companies subcontracted to peel prawns. It seems the parlous state of fish stocks and the pressure to monitor supply chains for sustainability has made the issue of slavery visible. Two retailers who did not wish to be named said that when they started to look at where fish for prawn feed was coming from, it became clear that the boats engaged in illegal fishing were also likely to be using trafficked forced labour.

Retailers have joined an initiative called Project Issara (Project Freedom) to discuss their response and several were at a meeting with producers in Bangkok at the end of last month at which slavery was discussed.



US may blacklist Thailand after prawn trade slavery revelations
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 6:04 pm
Filed under: News

Threat of sanctions unless Bangkok can sort its human trafficking trade, as Guardian investigation shows migrants enslaved on boats working in shrimp supply chain

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/11/us-blacklist-thailand-prawn-trade-slavery-revelations (retrieved 22/07/2015)

The US is considering downgrading Thailand on a human trafficking blacklist, following revelations in the Guardian that slaves are being used in the production of prawns sold in leading American, British and European supermarkets.

Washington will directly address allegations of human trafficking in Thailand’s trade in prawns – known in the US as shrimp – in an imminent report that could result in economic sanctions against Bangkok. The state department has confirmed it intends to review the country’s response to abuses such as migrants being bought by shipowners and forced to work as slaves for years at sea without pay.

The review, expected in the middle of this month, could result in Thailand being downgraded to the lowest level in a US system that ranks 188 nations according to their willingness and efforts to combat slavery and human trafficking. A relegation to tier three could trigger economic sanctions and loss of development aid, although such punishments can be waived under certain national security considerations.

“We are aware of the Guardian investigation,” said Luis CdeBaca, Washington’s Ambassador-at-Large for monitoring and combatting trafficking in persons, in a statement.

“We are currently finalising the 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, which will be released later this month, and will include an overview of human trafficking in Thailand and the Thai government’s efforts to address human trafficking.”

The annual Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report is considered to be the gold standard in global anti-trafficking efforts. Last year Thailand narrowly escaped relegation for the third year running and was told it would face an automatic downgrade this year if significant progress was not made to address issues of slavery and trafficking within its borders by the end of the year.

Last year, for the third year running, Thailand narrowly escaped relegation and was told it would face an automatic downgrade this year if significant progress was not made to address issues of slavery and trafficking within its borders by the end of the year.

“Under US law there is a time limit how many years a country can stay on the tier-2 watch list before it is automatically downgraded to tier 3,” said former US trafficking ambassador Mark Lagon, now a professor at Georgetown University.

“If the US government determines that Thailand has made improvements it can be raised up, but if it has not, there is no longer an opportunity to have any waivers or delay.”

Lagon said Thailand was at a “critical juncture” with the annual report due to be released within days and the country facing international “moral opprobrium” for receiving the lowest possible ranking.

He also paid tribute to The Guardian’s six month investigation into the Thai fishing industry, which uncovered horrific conditions, 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings.

Fifteen migrant workers from Burma and Cambodia described to the Guardian how they had been enslaved, after paying brokers to help them find work in Thailand in factories or on building sites. They were sold instead to boat captains, sometimes for as little as $420 (£250).

“As important as the work of governments and the UN are revelations brought to light by journalists,” said Lagon. “They do affect governments: creditworthiness, commerce, trust in the seafood coming out of Thailand will all be affected by this.”

Although slavery is illegal everywhere in the world, including Thailand, the south-east Asian country is considered a major source, transit and destination country for slavery, where nearly half a million people are believed to be enslaved, according to the Global Slavery Index.

A tier-3 ranking would rank Thailand alongside Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia for categorically failing to comply with the most basic international requirements to prevent trafficking and protect victims.

A downgrade could also lead to restrictions on US foreign assistance and access to global institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

This week’s Guardian investigation uncovered slavery in the supply chains of farmed shrimp sold by major UK, US and European supermarkets and retailers, including Walmart, Carrefour, Costco, Tesco, Aldi, Coop, Morrisons and Iceland.



Revealed: Asian slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 3:28 pm
Filed under: News

Thai ‘ghost ships’ that enslave and even kill workers are linked to global shrimp supply chain, Guardian investigation discovers

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/supermarket-prawns-thailand-produced-slave-labour (Retrieved :22/07/2015)

Slaves forced to work for no pay for years at a time under threat of extreme violence are being used in Asia in the production of seafood sold by major US, British and other European retailers, the Guardian can reveal.

A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

Men who have managed to escape from boats supplying CP Foods and other companies like it told the Guardian of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years; some were regularly offered methamphetamines to keep them going. Some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.

Fifteen migrant workers from Burma and Cambodia also told how they had been enslaved. They said they had paid brokers to help them find work in Thailand in factories or on building sites. But they had been sold instead to boat captains, sometimes for as little as £250.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Vuthy, a former monk from Cambodia who was sold from captain to captain. “They kept me chained up, they didn’t care about me or give me any food … They sold us like animals, but we are not animals – we are human beings.”

Another trafficking victim said he had seen as many as 20 fellow slaves killed in front of him, one of whom was tied, limb by limb, to the bows of four boats and pulled apart at sea.

“We’d get beaten even if we worked hard,” said another. “All the Burmese, [even] on all the other boats, were trafficked. There were so many of us [slaves] it would be impossible to count them all.”

CP Foods – a company with an annual turnover of $33bn (£20bn) that brands itself as “the kitchen of the world” – sells its own-brand prawn feed to other farms, and supplies international supermarkets, as well as food manufacturers and food retailers, with frozen or cooked prawns and ready-made meals. It also sells raw prawn materials for food distributors.

In addition to Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco, the Guardian has identified Aldi, Morrisons, the Co-operative and Iceland as customers of CP Foods. They all sell frozen or cooked prawns, or ready meals such as prawn stir fry, supplied by CP Foods and its subsidiaries. CP Foods admits that slave labour is part of its supply chain.

“We’re not here to defend what is going on,” said Bob Miller, CP Foods’ UK managing director. “We know there’s issues with regard to the [raw] material that comes in [to port], but to what extent that is, we just don’t have visibility.”

The supply chain works in this way: Slave ships plying international waters off Thailand scoop up huge quantities of “trash fish”, infant or inedible fish. The Guardian traced this fish on landing to factories where it is ground down into fishmeal for onward sale to CP Foods. The company uses this fishmeal to feed its farmed prawns, which it then ships to international customers.

The alarm over slavery in the Thai fishing industry has been sounded before by non-governmental organisations and in UN reports.

But now, for the first time, the Guardian has established how the pieces of the long, complex supply chains connect slavery to leading producers and retailers.

“If you buy prawns or shrimp from Thailand, you will be buying the produce of slave labour,” said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International.

The Guardian conducted dozens of interviews with fishermen, boat captains, boat managers, factory owners and Thai officials in and around various ports in Thailand.Thailand enjoys a prime position as the world’s largest prawn exporter in a vast seafood-export industry estimated to be worth some $7.3bn. Through multinationals such as CP Foods, Thailand ships out roughly 500,000 tonnes of prawns every year – nearly 10% of which is farmed by CP Foods alone.

Although slavery is illegal in every country in the world, including Thailand, some 21 million men, women and children are enslaved globally, according to the International Labour Organisation. These people may have been sold like property, forced to work under mental or physical threat, or find themselves controlled by their “employers”. Thailand is considered a major source, transit and destination country for slavery, and nearly half a million people are believed to be currently enslaved within Thailand’s borders. There is no official record of how many men are enslaved on fishing boats. But the Thai government estimates that up to 300,000 people work in its fishing industry, 90% of whom are migrants vulnerable to being duped, trafficked and sold to the sea. Rights groups have long pointed to Thailand’s massive labour shortage in its fishing sector, which – along with an increased demand from the US and Europe for cheap prawns – has driven the need for cheap labour.

“We’d like to solve the problem of Thailand because there’s no doubt commercial interests have created much of this problem,” admits CP Foods’ Miller.The Guardian’s findings come at a crucial moment. After being warned for four consecutive years that it was not doing enough to tackle slavery, Thailand risks being given the lowest ranking on the US state department’s human trafficking index, which grades 188 nations according to how well they combat and prevent human trafficking.

Relegation to tier 3 would put Thailand, which is grappling with the aftermath of a coup, on a par with North Korea and Iran, and could result in a downgrade of Thailand’s trading status with the US.

“Thailand is committed to combatting human trafficking,” said the Thai ambassador to the US, Vijavat Isarabhakdi. “We know a lot more needs to be done but we also have made very significant progress to address the problem.”

Although the Thai government has told the Guardian that “combating human trafficking is a national priority”, our undercover investigation unearthed a lawless and unregulated industry run by criminals and the Thai mafia – facilitated by Thai officials and sustained by the brokers who supply cheap migrant labour to boat owners.

“The Thai authorities could get rid of the brokers and arrange [legal] employment,” one high-ranking Thai official, who is tasked with investigating human trafficking cases, said on condition of anonymity. “But the government doesn’t want to do that, it doesn’t want to take action. As long as [boat] owners still depend on brokers – and not the government – to supply workers, then the problem will never go away.”

Human rights activists believe that Thailand’s seafood-export industry would probably collapse without slavery. They say, there is little incentive for the Thai government to act and have called for consumers and international retailers to demand action.

“Global brands and retailers can do so much good without bringing too much risk upon themselves by simply enforcing their supplier standards, which typically prohibit forced labour and child labour,” said Lisa Rende Taylor of Anti-Slavery International. “And if local businesses realise that non-compliance results in loss of business, it has the potential to bring about huge positive change in the lives of migrant workers and trafficking victims.”The Guardian asked the supermarkets to comment on our finding of slavery in their supply chains.

All said they condemned slavery and human trafficking for labour. They all also pointed to systems of auditing they have in place to check labour conditions. Several retailers have joined a new initiative called Project Issara (Project Freedom) to discuss how they should respond and several attended a meeting in with the major producers in Bangkok at the end of last month at which slavery was discussed.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said: “We are actively engaged in this issue and playing an important role in bringing together stakeholders to help eradicate human trafficking from Thailand’s seafood export sector.”

Carrefour said it conducts social audits of all suppliers, including the CP factory that supplies it with some prawns. It tightened up the process after alerts in 2012. It admitted that it did not check right to the end of its complex chains.

Costco told us it would require its suppliers of Thai prawn “to take corrective action to police their feedstock sources”.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We regard slavery as completely unacceptable. We are working with CP Foods to ensure the supply chain is slavery-free, and are also working in partnership with the International Labour Organisation [ILO] and Ethical Trading Initiative to achieve broader change across the Thai fishing industry.”

Morrisons said it would take the matter up with CP urgently. “We are concerned by the findings of the investigation. Our ethical trading policy forbids the use of forced labour by suppliers and their suppliers.”

The Co-operative was among those saying it was already working to understand “working conditions beyond the processing level”. “The serious issue of human trafficking on fishing boats is challenging to address and requires a partnership” in which it is actively engaged.

The managing director of corporate buying at Aldi UK, Tony Baines, said: “Our supplier standards, which form part of Aldi’s contractual terms and conditions, stipulate that our suppliers must comply with applicable national laws, industry minimum standards and ILO and United Nations conventions of human rights, whichever standard is more stringent.

“These standards also require that suppliers do not engage in any form of forced labour and related practices. Aldi will not tolerate workplace practices and conditions which violate basic human rights.”

Iceland said it only sourced one line containing prawns from a CP subsidiary but it was pleased to note that CP was “at the forefront of efforts to raise standards in the Thai fishing industry”.

CP said in a statement that it believed the right thing was to use its commercial weight to try to influence the Thai government to act rather than walk away from the Thai fishing industry, although it is putting in place plans to use alternative proteins in its feed so that it can eliminate Thai fishmeal by 2021 if necessary. It said it had already tightened controls over the way its fishmeal is procured. While it recognises that workers on boats are exploited, it added that the Thai department of fisheries continues to deny that unregistered boats are a problem. “We can do nothing, and witness these social and environmental issues destroy the seas around Thailand, or we can help drive improvement plans. We are making good progress,” it said.

• This article was amended on 11 June 2014 as an earlier version said Thailand ships out roughly 50,000 tonnes of prawns every year. This has been corrected to say 500,000 tonnes.



Trafficked into slavery on Thai trawlers to catch food for prawns
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 3:17 pm
Filed under: News

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/-sp-migrant-workers-new-life-enslaved-thai-fishing

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/-sp-migrant-workers-new-life-enslaved-thai-fishing (retrieve : 22/07/2015)

There is nothing but a jagged line of splinters where Myint Thein’s teeth once stood – a painful reminder, he says, of the day he was beaten and sold on to a Thai fishing boat.

The tattooed Burmese fisherman, 29, bears a number of other “reminders” of his life at sea: two deep cuts on each arm, calloused fingers contorted like claws and facial muscles that twitch involuntarily from fear. For the past two years, Myint Thein has been forced to work 20-hour days as a slave on the high seas, enduring regular beatings from his Thai captain and eating little more than a plate of rice each day. But now that he’s been granted a rare chance to come back to port, he’s planning something special to mark the occasion: his escape.

Using a pair of rusty scissors, Myint Thein chops off his long, scraggly locks. He rinses himself down with a hose, slips on his only pair of trousers and, peering out at his surroundings, remembers not to open his mouth too wide. A man with no teeth is easy to remember.

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 fishmeal for Thailand’s multibillion-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.
Thai ‘trash fish’ workers unload the catch at Songkhla port.

Despite public promises to clean up the industry, many Thai officials not only turn a blind eye to abuse, the Guardian found, they are often complicit in it, from local police through to high-ranking politicians and members of the judiciary – meaning that slaves often have nowhere to turn when they have the opportunity to run.

“One day I was stopped by the police and asked if I had a work permit,” says Ei Ei Lwin, 29, a Burmese migrant who was detained on the docks at Songkhla port. “They wanted a 10,000 baht (£180) bribe to release me. I didn’t have it, and I didn’t know anyone else who would, so they took me to a secluded area, handed me over to a broker, and sent me to work on a trawler.”
Brokers

Thailand produces roughly 4.2m tonnes of seafood every year, 90% of which is destined for export, official figures show. The US, UK and EU are prime buyers of this seafood – with Americans buying half of all Thailand’s seafood exports and the UK alone consuming nearly 7% of all Thailand’s prawn exports.

“The use of trafficked labour is systematic in the Thai fishing industry,” says Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, who describes a “predatory relationship” between these migrant workers and the captains who buy them.

“The industry would have a hard time operating in its current form without it.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a high-ranking broker explained to the Guardian how Thai boat owners phone him directly with their “order”: the quantity of men they need and the amount they’re willing to pay for them.

“Each guy costs about 25,000-35,000 baht [£450-£640] – we go find them,” explains the goateed broker, who operates out of the industrial fishing and prawn-processing hub of Samut Sakhon, just south of the capital, Bangkok.

“The boat owner finds the way to pay and then that debt goes to the labourers.”

At various points along the way, checkpoints are passed and officials bribed – with Thai border police often playing an integral role.

“Police and brokers – the way I see it – we’re business partners,” explains the broker, who claims to have trafficked thousands of migrants into Thailand over the past five years. “We have officers working on both sides of the Thai-Burmese border. If I can afford the bribe, I let the cop sit in the car and we take the main road.

“This is a big chain,” he adds. “You have to understand: everyone’s profiting from it. These are powerful people with powerful positions – politicians.”

The price captains pay for these men is a extremely low even by historical standards. According to the anti-trafficking activist Kevin Bales, slaves cost 95% less than they did at the height of the 19th-century slave trade – meaning that they are not regarded as investments for important cash crops such as cotton or sugar, as they were historically, but as disposable commodities.

For the migrants who believed Thailand would bring them opportunity, the reality of being sent out to sea is devastating.

“They told me I was going to work in a pineapple factory,” recalls Kyaw, a broad-shouldered 21-year-old from rural Burma. “But when I saw the boats, I realised I’d been sold … I was so depressed, I wanted to die.”
Chained

Life on a 15-metre trawler is brutal, violent and unpredictable. Many of the slaves interviewed by the Guardian recalled being fed just a plate of rice a day. Men would take fitful naps in sleeping quarters so cramped they would crawl to enter them, before being summoned back out to trawl fish at any hour. Those who were too ill to work were thrown overboard, some interviewees reported, while others said they were beaten if they so much as took a lavatory break.

Many of these slave ships stay out at sea for years at a time, trading slaves from one boat to another and being serviced by cargo boats, which travel out from Thai ports towards international borders to pick up the slave boats’ catch and drop off supplies.

The vessels catch fish and shellfish for domestic and international markets, including roughly 350,000 tonnes of trash fish, every year, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). This trash fish is separated at sea and ferried back on cargo boats to shore, where it is ground down and turned into fishmeal for multinational companies such as CP Foods, which use it in animal feed for prawn, pig and chicken farming.

CP in turn supplies food retailers and giant international supermarkets including Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour, Costco, Morrisons, the Co-operative and Iceland, with frozen and fresh prawns, and ready-made meals.



Migrants on boat rescued off Indonesia recall horrific scenes
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 2:18 pm
Filed under: News

Crisis escalates as nearly 800 people rescued from boat that was sinking off Indonesian coast

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/15/asian-migrant-crisis-grows-as-700-more-boat-people-rescued-off-indonesia (Retrieve 22/07/2015)

Nearly 800 desperate migrants from Burma and Bangladesh were rescued from a sinking vessel by fishermen off Indonesia’s coast on Friday as the boat people crisis in south-east Asia continued to escalate.

Human Rights Watch condemned Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia for playing a deadly game of “human ping pong” in refusing to allow more dangerously overladen boats carrying thousands fleeing poverty and persecution to land on their shores.
Analysis South-east Asia faces its own migrant crisis as states play ‘human ping-pong’
UN warns of humanitarian disaster after Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia turn back boatloads of refugees fleeing Burma, leaving 6,000 people stranded at sea
Read more

As the United Nations warned of a “massive humanitarian disaster”, up to 8,000 migrants were believed to be abandoned at sea by smugglers scared off by Thailand’s recent crackdown on human traffickers.

The vessels are packed with ethnic Muslim Rohingya escaping discrimination and sectarian violence in Buddhist-majority Burma and impoverished economic migrants fleeing Bangladesh.

In an impassioned plea to regional governments on Friday, the International Organisation for Migration, implored: “In the name of humanity, let these migrants land.”

But Burma, which refuses citizenship to the Rohingya, looked likely to snub a regional meeting called by Thailand on 29 May to address the growing crisis.

Reports emerged of horrific scenes on the sinking boat, with 794 on board including 61 children, before it was rescued 30 miles off Indonesia’s coast on Friday after two months at sea.

Passengers said the captain fled by speedboat five days ago after destroying the engine, and fighting between the Rohingya and Bangladeshis broke out as food and water ran out. Dozens died in the fighting or from illness, it was said. Among the dead was the 20-year-old brother of Manu Abudul Salam, 19, a Rohingya. “They thought the captain was from our country, so they attacked us with stick and knives,” she told Associated Press.

“If I had known that the boat journey would be so horrendous, I would rather have just died in Myanmar [Burma],” she sobbed.

Bangladeshi survivor Saidul Islam, 19, said the vessel was hot and cramped. “We could not stand up. When we asked for water, the captain hit us with wire.”

Another, named Amin, said the captain would shoot dead migrants who asked for food.

The vessel was half under water when found off Aceh province on Thursday with children swimming around it. Six fishing boats ferried the exhausted passengers ashore, where they were taken to a warehouse in Langsa. Eight who were critically ill were taken to hospital.

“They were killing each other, throwing people overboard,” Sunarya, the police chief in Langsa, told AFP. “Because [the boat] was overcapacity, some people had to go and probably they were defending themselves.”



How to solve the Asian migrant boats crisis – expert views
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Expert views

With up to 8000 desperate people – Rohingya Muslims from Burma and economic migrants from Bangladesh – stranded in boats in the Andaman Sea, experts call for an urgent regional, humanitarian response

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/15/how-to-solve-asian-migrant-boats-crisis-expert-views-rohingya (Retrieve 22/07/2015)

Between 6,000 and 8,000 refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from Burma and Bangladesh are currently stranded in boats off the coasts of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, with the governments of all three nations refusing to allow the boats to land. With reports of deaths on board and thousands more lives at risk, the Guardian asked a panel of experts how the crisis could be solved.

Lilianne Fan

Bangkok-based expert on humanitarian and conflict issues in Asia, research associate at the humanitarian policy group of the UK’s Overseas Development Institute

The solution really has to be a humanitarian approach, making sure lives are not lost and looking at temporary solutions in each of the affected countries – Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

You need to have a solution coordinated at the regional level but you also need to think about trying to really work with the Burmese government, within the Rakhine state in particular, to make sure conditions are being improved to the point that it is not a push factor for the Rohingya Muslims to leave.

Fundamentally this is an issue of statelessness and citizenship. The approach that Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nations) will have to take is one that doesn’t necessarily push Burma too hard on the citizenship issue right now but looks at improving conditions more from a humanitarian and development point of view, stabilising conditions while the discussion on eventual citizenship and status takes place. This will be a long discussion, and it won’t be easy.

The temporary solution is a settlement arrangement for the asylum seekers and refugees who are coming to these countries. There has to be a mechanism and strategy at the regional level that allows countries of the Asean region to have an oversight on coordinated management – a strategy that looks at how to actually manage the population that has arrived temporarily. The approach might be slightly different in every country, but it has to be an overarching strategy. The Bangladeshi economic migrants need to have a separate process and how they should be managed will be different.

One thing that is very clear is that the affected governments – Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia – are very torn by this issue. It is not an easy decision for them to say they don’t want the boats to come – this is something we have to realise.

Charles Santiago
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Chair of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, a coalition of lawmakers advocating for fundamental rights in south-east Asia

Asean really has to deal with this issue. It is no longer a Burma issue, it has become a regional issue. A regional issue that has to be dealt with at the regional level. There is a lot to do in terms of applying pressure on Burma.

The problem starts with the Burma government refusing to give citizenship to the Rohingya. They are all in detention camps, they are persecuted because of their race, skin colour and religion. This is a society that has been highly persecuted. This has to come to a stop.

Asean has to put pressure on Burma in order to make changes to the lives of people in Rakhine state. This is a long-term strategy. The short-term strategies would be for these countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand – to save those on the boats. Right now you have to save lives.

Asean’s non-interference policy has to come to a stop. Asean governments cannot hide behind an archaic policy, now a human catastrophe is taking place in front of our eyes. We talk about being caring and people-centred, but the people of south-east Asia need their governments to act in a responsible fashion.

David Manne

Executive director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, Australia, and principal solicitor and migration agent

Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia should immediately cease their pushback of boats and render rescue and humanitarian aid. Humanity must be put before politics, and rescue at sea before border enforcement.

Australia must show regional leadership by doing all within its power and capacity to save lives at sea through emergency logistical, financial and humanitarian assistance. Many of the asylum seekers at sea are stranded and suffering from starvation, having been pushed back from seeking refuge in Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia.

Australia should urge joint operations between key states to rescue these people, and should then work with other countries to provide vital assistance which ensures they are humanely treated, their claims fairly assessed, and that those in need of protection are resettled to safety.

Deterrence of asylum seekers does nothing to address the desperation and dangers which force people to flee – it just sweeps people from one doorstep to dangers and possible death elsewhere.

Nations in our region must stop constructing a fortress around the bloodied fields in front of them. What we need is for these countries – and the international community – to come together and to uphold the existing protection obligations which are owed to desperate people fleeing from persecution, and to strengthen strategies which are firmly founded in human dignity, human rights and international cooperation.
Jeff Labovitz

Chief of mission, International Organisation for Migration, Thailand

The first possible solution is that all surrounding countries must commit boats to search and rescue, and let these boats land. They should also work together to up surveillance and to find and locate boats and track where they are.

If there needs to be greater regional solutions they could possibly involve the Bali process (the Bali process on people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime). Thailand is holding a summit on 29 May, but that’s two weeks away, and we need to get together on a more urgent basis now. Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia need to share information, share any satellite information they have and to work out where people can disembark. They can coordinate that information with organisations such as IOM and others to make sure there’s assistance on the ground.

All the countries of the region need to get together to see what the root problems are. They have been sharing some information about smuggling networks but they haven’t done enough between countries. Essentially, there are no departures now. For the moment, it’s stopped. But the operation was huge – 13,000 people left in one month at the end of last year. We need communication, points of control, joint patrols and sharing of information, as well as identified points of contact.



Indonesia sends three warships and a plane to turn away migrant boats
Wednesday July 22nd 2015, 1:53 pm
Filed under: News

Navy patrols stepped up to prevent migrant vessels entering territorial waters as thousands are still thought to be stranded at sea

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/18/indonesia-sends-three-warships-and-a-plane-to-turn-away-migrant-boats (Retrieved 22/07/2015)

The Indonesian navy prevented a suspected migrant boat from entering the country’s waters at the weekend after the arrival of hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi people and has stepped up patrols in the area, the military said Monday.

Four warships and one plane were now patrolling off the coast of Indonesia’s western province of Aceh to stop migrant boats from entering, up from one warship and a plane about a week ago, an Indonesian armed forces spokesman, Fuad Basya, said.

Nearly 3,000 migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand over the past week, about half of whom have arrived in Aceh.

The three nations have sparked outrage by turning away some overloaded vessels, and thousands of migrants are still believed to be stranded at sea after a Thai crackdown disrupted long-established people-smuggling and -trafficking routes.

The migrants who have made it to shore in Indonesia have mostly been rescued by fishermen, and grim tales have emerged of deadly fights on board and harsh treatment by people smugglers.
‘They hit us, with hammers, by knife’: Rohingya migrants tell of horror at sea
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On Sunday the Indonesian navy stopped a boat from entering its waters after the vessel was spotted heading across the Malacca strait from the direction of Malaysia, Basya said.

After radio communication with the boat, it turned back from Indonesia, he said, adding it was not physically pushed back. Basya said it was believed the boat was carrying more migrants, although he was not sure how many.

“It was heading to Indonesian waters from Malaysia and was denied entry,” Basya said. “It was intercepted, and we stopped it from passing.”

A week ago the navy stopped a boat carrying hundreds of migrants from entering Indonesia, and the military insisted it would help only vessels in distress.

“The boats are forbidden from entering Indonesia,” Basya said.

On Friday fishermen rescued hundreds of migrants from a sinking boat off Aceh, on the huge island of Sumatra. Fighting had erupted on board between the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority from Myanmar and the Bangladeshis, and many leapt or were thrown overboard.

South-east Asian nations are under growing pressure to take action to stem the influx of people, and Malaysia, which is the current chair of regional grouping the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, on Sunday pressed Myanmar to engage in talks on the issue.

Malaysia’s foreign minister, Anifah Aman, is also due to host talks with his Indonesian and Thai counterparts this week.

However, Malaysia also said last week it would turn away boats bearing desperate migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh unless they were in imminent danger of sinking, following in the footsteps of Indonesia.
Rohingya refugees recover in Indonesian camp – in pictures
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Meanwhile the families of Rohingya on board one of the boats were growing worried because they had not been able to contact their loved ones since Saturday, Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which monitors migrant journeys across the Bay of Bengal, said.

The boat is believed to be carrying about 350 people, including dozens of women and children, and was thought to be cast adrift by a Thai smuggling gang who fled the vessel after disabling the ship’s engine this month.

Lewa said the project and relatives had been able to reach migrants on board the boat via mobile phones but the numbers have been dead since Saturday evening.

It is not clear whether that boat is the same vessel spotted by journalists on Thursday last week.