Originally published on July 1, 2015 y Margie Mason for The Associated Press—
“All he did was ask to go home.
The last time the Burmese slave made the same request, he was beaten almost to death. But after being gone eight years and forced to work on a boat in faraway Indonesia, Myint Naing was willing to risk everything to see his mother again.
So he threw himself on the ground and begged for freedom. Instead, the captain vowed to kill him for trying to jump ship, and chained him for three days without food or water.
He was afraid he would disappear. And that his mother would have no idea where to look.
Myint is one of more than 800 current and former slaves rescued or repatriated after a year-long Associated Press investigation into pervasive labor abuses in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry.
Thailand’s booming seafood business alone runs on an estimated 200,000 migrant workers, many of them forced onto boats after being tricked, kidnapped or sold. It’s a brutal trade that has operated for decades, with companies relying on slaves to supply fish to the United States, Europe and Japan — on dinner tables and in cat food bowls.
Myint, his family and his friends recounted his story to AP, which also followed parts of his journey. It is strikingly similar to accounts given by many of the more than 330 current and former slaves from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand interviewed in person or in writing by AP.
In 1993, a broker visited Myint’s village in southern Myanmar with promises of jobs for young men in Thailand. Myint was only 18 years old, with no travel experience, but his family was desperate for money. So his mother finally relented. When the agent returned, he hustled his new recruits to grab their bags immediately.
Myint’s mother wasn’t home. He never got to say goodbye.”
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