iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Thailand’s Slave Fishermen

Listen now 55 mins

Listen in pop-out player

Thailand’s Slave Fishermen

55 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 25 January 2014

It has one of the largest fishing fleets in the world and much of the catch from Thailand’s fishing boats ends up on Japanese, European and American plates. Yet the industry stands accused of profiting from slave labour.

As part of the BBC’s Freedom 2014 season, Becky Palmstrom investigates this tale of modern day slavery. She travels to Thailand and Burma (also known as Myanmar), to find out why and how illegal migrants are being forced onto Thai fishing boats, many of them working for months unpaid. She hears allegations of cruelty and even murder.

In Thailand, Becky meets Ken, from rural Burma, who hoped to make a better life for himself and his ageing parents. He ended up being trafficked twice onto Thai fishing boats. The first time conditions were so bad that he preferred to risk his life jumping overboard and swimming for six hours before reaching shore. The second time, having been promised a job in a pineapple processing factory, he once again ended up on a fishing boat but he and the rest of the Burmese crew were rescued by a non-governmental organisation and a special branch of the Thai police.

The BBC team was able to bring his parents, back in Burma, the first news they had had of their son for four years. The Thai authorities admit that most of their fishing fleet is unregistered and much of it relies on illegal migrant labour. A lot of that labour is trafficked from Burma and Cambodia. Under pressure – particularly from the US State Department – to improve its record on human trafficking, the Thai government insists it is now making every effort to clamp down on trafficking and forced labour in its fishing industry. The BBC team is taken on a “raid” of fishing boats by the Thai Marine Police. It also hears disturbing stories from Burmese crewmen on Thai fishing boats, from captains and boat owners, indicating there is a long way to go before consumers can be certain the fish they eat has not been caught by slaves.

Thailand’s Slave Fishermen is the first documentary in the Freedom 2014 season on the World Service, running from January-April 2014 - a season of hard-hitting investigative work looking at the state of freedom today all over the world.


Featured in...

  • Freedom 2014 Season

    Whether it's freedom from surveillance or freedom to be single, what is freedom?


  1. Image for Documentaries


    An indepth look at stories and issues from around the world. This podcast offers you the chance to…

  2. Image for World Service Music Documentaries

    World Service Music Documentaries

    All the World Service's music podcasts gathered into one place. New documentaries will be added…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss