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As a Result of the Slave Trade, Stolen And Lost Hundreds of Thousands of Lives

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Thailand, it is the country having the world’s largest shrimp industry. One of the most important sources of living is fishery in Thailand. Marine products, one of the basic aqua cultural products, make a great contribution to country’s economy. Shrimp trade has a marketplace sustaining more than 6 billion dollars. According to the researches of the Health Organization, every year people consume million tons of shrimp all around the world. In 2013, shrimp production has decreased at the rate of 50% in the world’s shrimp giant Thailand due to the spread of an outbreak.

Thailand’s economy has run into various problems and difficulties because of this major fall of export value in global marketplace. This disease, known as early mortality syndrome, has dealt a major blow to Shrimp farms by spreading among many countries. Because the successive shrimp deaths, many farms has been closed down and it seriously affects the fishery industry in the country.

The President of Thai Fishery Mongkol Sukcharoenkhana:
“Association EMS is a disease that we still aiming to find its cause. Especially we, as the fishery department, are carrying out some experiments and researches to fight against this disease. There has been such a great progress in this issue. In my opinion, we has made progress at the rate of 80%. I think that the treatment will be found soon. The disease has spread without ceasing for years and now it has began to spread among other countries.”

It has been clarified that there has been no process on the annihilation of this disease caused by bacteria according to the researches carried out for 4 years at the University of Arizona yet. They are still carrying out researches about the harms of this issue on consumer health. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Thailand forms the 20% of the world’s fishery market place.

The demand for Shrimp and its price have increased at the rate of 100% in the global marketplace due to the decrease of exports. Fishery industry cannot meet the labor demand sufficiently for this increased demand. Today, Thailand with the world’s lowest unemployment rate from neighbor countries to create workforce and meet the labor demand. Depending on the decrease in stocks and disinvestment, the future of Thailand’s fishery industry is uncertain.

The President of Thai Fishery Mongkol Sukcharoenkhana:
“There are various factors affecting this issue. For example, EMS causes disease in farms. The other one is fishing boat. Now, we are dealing with the notices from USA related to the illegal employment. Our association is working in cooperation with the government to overcome this problem. Now, we have reached the global standards and all boats can be monitored.”

Political Science Academician Pongwan Sawasdipakdi:
“As far as I am concerned, fishery industry has paused for 1-2 months. The boat owners have made a pause to register their boats and immigrant labors. They have carried out some works perfunctorily and this is insufficient and also this issue is not one of the government’s priorities.”

The environmental and social effects of Shrimp aquaculture are still being discussed in Thailand to preserve the environment and prevent the human rights violations. We will investigate the slavery and lost lives by going into the secrets behind the world’s largest shrimp trade. Thailand is the country having the world’s largest fishing fleet. According to the official figures, there are more than 50 thousand boats belonging to 150 thousand fishermen in total.

However, the researches indicate that the illegal fishery is higher than these figures. According to the figures provided by international agencies, there are millions of illegal immigrants working around the country today. The high shrimp demand of USA and European countries increases the employment in Thailand day by day. This is referred as the major cause of the migration to Thailand. This is a huge marketplace for illegal fishery and human trafficking.

Political Science Academician Pongwan Sawasdipakdi:
“Thai government certainly tries to ignore this immigrant labor issue because our economy largely depends on this and we have difficulty in employment. Therefore they know that the immigrant labors are must in Thailand.”

The growing economy as from 90’s cannot provide a political consistency in the country. For the last 30 years, the political crisis lasting periodically and social structure has dramatically affected the business life in particular. In 2014, the constitution was suspended by the military coup in the country governed by Chakri Dynasty since 1946. The number of the illegal business organizations is uncontrollably increasing in this structure. In Thailand, 60 thousand illegal fishing boats work in open sea without subject to any law. The people, mostly immigrants and refugees, living in these boats has been gone the offenses against humanity limit now by exceeding the offense limit.

Coup in Thailand

The President of Labor Rights Publicity Network Somphong Srkaew:
“International community still has doubts about Thailand. They suppose that we do things such as human trafficking, captive and child labor. The labor demand is directly proportionate to the growth of Thailand’s economy, also. However, the immigrant labors’ reason for preferring to work in Thailand is this economic opportunities. The better part of immigrant labors work without work permit and some employers recruit them despite this. Even the minimum wage is higher than the wages in their country.”

The maximum immigrant rate to Thailand belongs to their 855 km far away neighbor country Myanmar. Every year, thousands of Muslims from Arakan leave Myanmar to escape from restrictions and discrimination. Thailand offering one of the highest life qualities among the Southeastern Asia countries registers millions of immigrant labors from neighbor countries every year. Muslims from Arakan falling into this human trafficking trap begin an unclear journey without food and water.

The President of Thai Fishery Association Mongkol Sukcharoenkhana:
“Now, we have overcome the human trafficking issue at the rate of 90%. I think that this issue is almost over. Even if the Europe Union has shown us a “red card”, it is injudicious to reflect this on export. Illegal labor and fishery issue is not related to shrimp aquaculture.”

The non-governmental organizations included Environmental Justice Foundation have followed the shrimp supply chain and reports. International Organization for Migration has announced that there are numerous illegal immigrants in Thai fishing boats in Indonesian and Malaysian offshore. Based on this, Thailand’s military government has launched various operations on the country’s shorelines.

Commander Pisarn Harnpakdi:
“I am the executive of the Harbor Entrance-Exit Center. I need to say that there are so many immigrant workers here. In Smutsakhon there are nearly 250 thousand people. Most of them are Burmese, and while the others are Lao and Cambodian. When we determine any illegal immigrants working without identity or work permit we send them to the investigation team. For this issue, Ministry of Labour, Naval Forces, Fishing Department Port Operations, Customs Office and police work all together. We have investigated many labors and we did not come across a victim of human trafficking in Samutsakhon.”

Chaiwat Ratchapaksri was a victim of labor and he says:
“I was working in a company in Samutsakhon. We travelled for 17 days to reach Benjina Island in Indonesia. Some of the workers on the boat had no idea about their duty. We used to never sleep. Some of them thought to commit a sluiced jumping into the sea. One Thai fishing company kept me locked in a room for 2 months. In boa violence came out. Because they were afraid of this, they locked us, beated us and make us work in a heavy labour. I did not know what to do, actually. I began to think if I will survive or not. I tried to communicate with my family. Buy they threatened me to kill my family.”

Today, many people work illegally in Thailand. These people hoping to prosper and live in better conditions become the victims of human traffickers and slavers. It has been stated in Tier 3 report published in USA that Thailand is the target country among with forced labor, slavery, harassment and even death in behind of the shrimp trade.

People work illegally in Thailand

The President of Labor Rights Publicity Network Somphong Srkaew:
“There are many issues remaining uncertain for Thailand government policy. Thai people have never investigated how the fish products reaching to the consumer and in this process whether there is a violation against human rights or not. We should insist on and promote the idea that immigrant workers are also human. Thailand also needs them, so they should be treated as Thai people.”

In Thailand, there are more than 5 millions of illegal immigrants. Especially tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslim fugitives due to the military pressure in Myanmar illegally migrate to there. These people hoping to prosper and provide better future for their children sail away in fear of death to Andaman Sea by dealing with the traffickers.

Immigrants in Thailand

Arapha was a victim of labor and she says:
“I heard that some people are going to another country by boat and I wanted to join them. I was on boat nearly two months. There were women and children in this boat. On the roof, there were guardians. I heard they are Thai. They had big weapons and guns. They were pointing a gun to us even if we had a fight among us. We could not be sure whether we would arrive to Thailand or be killed. I was anxious and I just waited.”

Big weapons and guns

Arakan people escaping from Myanmar risk their life to gain political liberty and to keep humanitarian values.

Ismail Shaykh al-Islam, says:
“The Rohingya people coming from Arakan state live in Myanmar as illegal immigrants. They go to Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and many countries to survive. Most of these people have been coming to Thailand by sea in the last 4-5 years because it is the easiest route and the closest country. They are coming by fishing boats and they are faced with death risk.”

Today, hundreds of thousands of people are stuck in South Asia waters. For Rohingya people employed in fishing boats illegally, this situation is completely a disaster. These people who had been taken from their home and put in camp sites by Myanmar military administration faced with a big struggle for life. Nearly 1 million Rohingya Muslims live in unsound camp sites in Arakan state, the west part of the country. United Nations describe Rohingya Muslims as the minority exposed to the violence most in the world.

Rohingya Muslims

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Vivian Tan:
“The reason is that the ethnic conflicts with government forces. Some of them escaped 30 years ago and some of them came here in the following years. There have been conflicts between armed groups and armed forces of government for decades. These are occurred generally in the southeast of Myanmar.

Primary sheltering, education, water, medical service, distributing of food are organized at least once a month by nongovernmental organizations; government controls these camps and therefore their movement opportunities are limited. In theory, the refugees cannot leave camps. This means that most of them are in need for humanitarian help to survive. Even if they are capable, they are not allowed to go out of camp and work legally.”

Violence in the world

The Rohingya couples who cannot get married are allowed to have only two children. Birth certificates are not issued for these children. Today in Arakan, which is thought alike as Nazi Germany, life comes to a halt for Rohingya people.

An Activist from Rohingya Maung Kyaw Nu said:
“Arakan is a state in Myanmar. It is very poor and forgotten zone. I can say that the reason why people escape from the country is that the ethnic cleansing started by government regime. Rohingyas are the people forced to migrate, they are the people escaping from the genocide. They started to escape from Arakan to save their life and find a shelter. This case is a veritable genocide, it is a territorial genocide. Life was not safe where I used to live, in 1982 they took away our right to move freely with the citizenship law.

There were no freedom of travel, education, medical services; there are no national identity cards we call as identity and legal rights. For the defence of themselves and save their life, the people jumped into the sea and began to their too risky boat journey. According to Nargis constitution adopted in 2008, 25% of the council was left to the soldiers. This means that this country is not a democratic country.

In the previous months the government has bought war planes and various weapons. They have bought 23-24 weapons from Pakistan. In the recent period they also have bought planes from India. These will affect all societies. But Rohingyas are one of the most affected societies. The government caused trouble. Army organized some racist Buddhist priests. They collaborate with the regime. They kill Muslims in the name of government or with its support.”

Ethnic uproar which was made in 2012, Arakan brought a series of conflicts in its wake. When an Arakanese woman was found dead Buddhists revolted and after this Rohingya Muslims were blamed. 10 people who were accused got hanged and a lot people lost their life in the uproar. Myanmar Patriotic Council was founded by a Buddhist society with the support of Myanmar government to maintain the order and safety in the society. This council which spreads to different zones and states in the country formed civil response team by opening schools.

Buddhist Priest Ashin Thawbarga is the board member of Patriotic Council and he said:
“There are Myanmar Patriotic Councils almost everywhere in the country. Our aim is to work for ‘The Protection of Race and Religion’ laws and national security. Currently, we are focusing on encouragement of Buddhist culture and save nationalism and religion. These are the essential requirements of our country. When you look at the conflicts in Arakan and Meiktila, you can see that there are serious problems.

From now on, the conditions are under our control and we can stop trouble makers and angry local people. Buda’s motto is ‘You will get what you have done.’ When you adopt this, you will feel at peace. We are not a member of political party. However, we are against to all who violate our national security.”

According to the law adopted in Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims who lost their civil rights was declared as a stateless person. The policy of Myanmar government and ethnic conflicts has been met with reaction by nongovernmental organizations and various countries. The old American President Barack Obama stated that if Myanmar wants to be successful in transition period to democracy, discrimination against Arakanese Muslims should come to an end.

A quote from Barack Obama who served as the 44th President of the United States:
“If I were a Rohingya, I would want to stay in the land I was born in and my parents lived, but I’d want to make sure that my government was protecting me and people were treating me fairly. I think that one of the most important things is to put an end to discrimination against people because of what they look like or what their faith is. And the Rohingyas are exposed to discrimination. This is one of the reasons for their escape.”

Barack Obama - The 44th President of the United States

All right, Barack Obama told while he was president of the US. But each of these explanations was rejected by a Buddhist Priest Ashin Thawbarga and he answered:
“Currently, we focus on protecting Buddhist culture and the religious promote. We are trying to encourage the Buddhist people. These are the most important requirements of our country. If conflicts arise, our local union will try to stop. I do not even want to hear the word Rohingya. We stated that we will not accept this even the President Obama says. United States puts pressure on us and we have replied to this. We as the priests will not accept this.”

Almost 3 thousand houses belonging to Rohingyas were set on fire in a combat started against Rohingya Muslims at Arakan. Living space of thousands of people was confiscated after this incident resulted in death of hundreds of people. All these experiences eliminate the living freedom of people in their own country. People in Arakan are being deprived of many opportunities like education and health. The Rohingya people who are not accepted in Myanmar are being accused of coming from Bangladesh.

An Activist from Rohingya Maung Kyaw Nu:
“They are citizens of Myanmar. The discourse about the Rohingyas in this region are Bengali is political. We are not Bengalis and no Bengalis have come here and kill the Buddhists. Hundreds of Bengali Buddhists began to come to Arakan state. This was for taking advantages of humanitarian aids had sent especially by Turkey and world societies.”

In last three years, hundred thousands of people who could not quit the camps and who want to escape from ethnicity conflict in Myanmar have become the victims of the traffickers. Arakan nation facing with the difficulties every single day and not having any freedom of travel apply to traffickers engaging human trafficking to help them with their fishing boats.

Engaging human trafficking

A child victim Zatakusan:
“Every day I have some problems to find food and live. I cannot go to anywhere; I have no job and no food to eat. That is why I want to move to a foreign country. A human trafficker asked me that “If I want to move to another country”. And I decided to join and went to his apartment.”

And his father Kyaw Naing:
“It was my son who was leaving. I did not have any clue where he was going. I called him in the morning and I heard that he went to the boats. Then, I went to human traffickers and asked them who took my son. I told them I would make a trouble to them, if they did not bring him back. They told me that they had some problems with the boat.”

And his son Zatakusan:
“The boat arrived from another country. I think that they were foreigners. At 8 am other people came too. They had swords and threaten us to move somewhere else.”

And his father Kyaw Naing:
“It took ten days to get him back. Local human traffickers made a plan to call them back. I told them that I want my son right away. Then they bought my son and some other people back. When I asked him if he wants to go back to the boat he said ‘No’.”

All of the illegal transportations are organized by human traffickers. According to the local sources, human traffickers sell most of those people to the slavers.

An Activist from Rohingya Maung Kyaw Nu:
“Human traffickers especially target women and children. They force under aged women for prostitution by selling them to brothels. You can often realize this situation at Thailand. Children are sold to third parties and they forced to mendicity. Men are sold to fishing boats by being fooled with good job and life promises. Most of the people die in these places and some of them are made to be addicted to various drugs like heroin. They are stuck in these places until the end of their lives.”

The Parliament

United States of America have made a call to the countries in the region to work together for saving lives of immigrants. Jeff Rathke, Spokesman of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that they are worried about the situation of thousands of immigrants who are stuck in traffickers’ boats. According to United Nations’ reports, the forced labour and slavery have become an endemic in Thai fishing sector. In today’s world, we learned in which conditions the Rohingyas are held in the camps by human traffickers. They are given very little food, beaten and their parents are called to ask for money.

Images of mass grave

We witnessed the images of mass grave in the human traffickers’ camps. Death bodies were just put in to these graves in time. These experiences indicate clearly that how people suffer while they are searching for more permanent and safe lives. Today, hundreds of thousands people not having any legal security are waiting for to be rescued in despair.

People suffer

Anyway, as the President of Labor Rights Publicity Network Somphong Srkaew said:
“We came across with immigrant labors thrown out from boats and picking foods up from garbage around. This is not a issue we can ignore. Humanitarian aid is our duty. It is time to share the public properties fairly and preserve the environment…”

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