Burmese Fishermen Are Trafficked and Abused On Thai Fishing Boats

The issue of human trafficking is (distressingly) very broad, and the focus is often on women who are sold into sex slavery.  A BBC story reported by Alastair Leithead, however, demonstrates that men are also affected by trafficking.  Burmese men who are trafficked into slavery on Thai fishing boats report horrible conditions and the constant threat of violence.  The Thai fishing industry is a large supplier of fish to Britain and other European countries.

Zaw Zaw, a 26-year-old man, was deceived into slavery on a fishing boat, where he spent only three months before he escaped.  He is among thousands of other men who are deceived into leaving Burma on the promise of factory or market jobs, and then imprisoned on fishing boats where they are deprived of sleep, beaten if they become sick, and forcibly fed amphetamines.  Zaw Zaw described the constant threat of violence on the boat:

“Three men tried to escape at 2am.  Two drowned as they couldn’t swim. The other was caught when he got to shore. They brought him back to the boat – his face swollen from being beaten and tortured. They called us all on deck and the Thai captain said this is what happens if you try to escape. The man was tortured with electric shocks and was then shot in front of us all and thrown overboard.”

Some men, like Zaw Zaw, decide to risk an escape attempt, despite the high stakes.  But many others remain in slavery.  Human rights activists say there is far more that can be done.  Some of this is up to state officials, who could launch protective measures and campaigns.  But we can also apply pressure with our buying choices: we need to be careful about buying fish from Thailand.

“What we would say is when you buy your fish,” explained Andy Hall, an activist who works for a human rights group that deals with Burmese migrants, “and that fish comes from Thailand, it’s coming from an industry where there is a gross exploitation of people who are trafficked into the industry, who are working such long hours in inhumane conditions.”

If you live in Britain, chances are that some of the fish you buy comes from Thailand, and Thai fisheries also distribute to the rest of the world.  So when you buy fish, stand up for these fishermen, and against human slavery.


Photo from Flickr.


Vasilis P.
Vasilis P.5 years ago

Most of the consumer goods we enjoy in the western world come from slaves as well, from pens and toothbrushes to shoes, clothes and computers.

Bernadette P.
Berny p5 years ago


Beth M.
Beth M5 years ago

Hopefully Europena countries do something to end this. Hitting them in the pocketbook usually works.

DobieMax Wojcik
DobieMax WoBib5 years ago


Marianne Good
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Sara A.
Renee A5 years ago

Thanks for sharing this story with the world.I have for years refused to buy fish products from anywhere but here in Canada.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago

horrible... thanks for telling the world

Vera Y.
Vera Yuno5 years ago

awful story, very sad, exploitation is horrible and human trafficking should be punish in a hard way

Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams5 years ago

so sad....i had no idea this was going on...

Barbara Gianneo
Barbara Gianneo5 years ago

very sad :(