It was 2 a.m. and Tin Nyo Win heard a kick on the door. It was time to get up for work that would continue for the next 16 hours. Accompanied by his wife, they would rip the shrimp off its tail, shell, head and guts, so that grocery stores and buffets all over United States would get clean shrimps on their plates.
Tin Nyo Win and his wife were sold to the Gig Peeling Factory as slaves and they had no choice but to perform this tiresome task for 16 hours in a day. Along with 100 Burmese migrants, the slaves also included tiny children. Their Thai bosses didn’t call them by their name, only numbers; No. 31 was assigned to Tin Nyo Win. The pay was very low and at times none at all and there was no means of escape, as someone was always watching over them.
This illegal practice has made Thailand one of the leading shrimp providers and the export industry is worth 7 billion, as this shrimp makes its way to Asia, Europe and the US.
Many such shrimp peeling sheds are at Samut Sakhon, which is a port town; however the sheds are not visible to the public.
Tin Nyo Win, realizing that he and his wife were in real trouble, was looking for an escape. Taunted as “cows” and “buffalos” because they peeled slowly, they were not permitted to go out for a meal at the same time in fear that they would escape together.
One morning, they noticed that the door wasn’t being watched for a few minutes. They availed this golden opportunity and ran. However, Tin Nyo Win’s wife got caught at a market and was brutally dragged away while Tin Nyo Win watched helplessly. He also feared for the baby as his wife was pregnant at the time.
He went to a local labor rights group for help and this resulted in a raid. On November 9th, officers and military men entered the shed in search for his wife. Tin Nyo Win also accompanied them, dressed in a hat, dark glasses and mask to protect his identity. However, he wife was nowhere to be found.
With the help of the police, they finally managed to find her at a fish factory nearby; the story does not end though. No arrests were made at the shed and migrants with documents (which included children) were sent back to the shed. 10 children who did not have any documents were separated from their parents and were taken to a shelter with the choice of staying there for many years or getting deported to Myanmar without their parents.
Tin Nyo Win also met trouble as he and his wife after enjoying 4 days together were put in a Thai jail with almost $4,000 bail. They were charged with illegally entering the country and doing a job without a work permit.
Shrimp is extremely popular in the US, and Thailand sends almost half of its shrimp supply to the US. Thailand is one of the world’s worst human trafficking hubs and regardless of being blacklisted by the U.S. State Department; their shrimps still find their way on American plates.
The factory where Tin Nyo Win worked is now closed, but the workers have simply been moved to another location. The owners of the shed have still not been arrested.
A Bangkok police officer at a senior position came to know about the mismanagement of this case and has authorized re-investigation. Tin Nyo Win and his wife who had been locked up for 10 days were released and moved to a shelter owned by the government for victims of human trafficking.