America imports over a third of its shrimp from the Southeast country of Thailand, but the industry has a dark side. Because many Thai citizens won't work for the low wages offered in the factories, there are as many as 400,000 workers from a neighboring country, Burma - including 12-17 year olds - working 18 hour shifts that start at 3AM. Most of the factory owners take advantage of the fact that their workers are undocumented to control their workers and police rarely interfere.
The Thai Frozen Food Association says it conducts regular unannounced visits and expels companies that violate child labor laws, but special reporter Steve Sapienza's private investigation with a hidden camera found various workforce violations including four children and 20 workers without work permits.
For the past 3 years, Thailand has been on the U.S. State Department watch list for their poor human trafficking record.
"To a certain extent, the Thai government is serious about the matter, as they are heavily accused of human trafficking by the U.S. government. To solve the problem, there needs to be a cooperation between factory owners, the government sector and NGOs involved. But there is an obstacle to the resolution due to the corruption of officials and bribery," explains Sompong Sakaew of the Labor Rights Promotion Network in Thailand.
"My hands were so painful that I could not even put on the gloves. I said I would go to the clinic and then take only one day off. But she, the owner, cursed me. And then she called her brother and threatened me," - Thazin Mon Htay, former shrimp peeler.
"I think the industry, as a whole, is not regulated properly. And I don't think there is enough traceability in where the shrimp are coming from, and that's where the exploration comes in," - Andy Hall, Mahidol University.
1. Where is Thailand located on the world map?
2. What do you know about Thailand and what can you guess from its location on the map?
3. What is child labor?
1. Are you surprised by the way shrimp factories exploit their workers? Why or why not?
2. Do you think Americans would be willing to pay more for shrimp if that would improve working conditions? Or would they chose other foods?
3. What would you do if you owned a factory and the competition was able to offer a better price because it used undocumented workers?
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