There is no greater force on Earth than the promise of freedom.

 

The Gulf of Thailand, once teeming with life, is now barren.  Decades ago, Thai boats plied rich waters and came home full after a few days or weeks. Now captains are out for years, chasing fish as far away as Ethiopia.   

As Thailand’s prosperity increases, fishermen are finding more family-friendly work and the enormous Thai fishing fleet—the second-biggest supplier of fish to the United States—is short tens of thousands of men per year.  

Human trafficking gangs have stepped into the gap, luring men out of villages in Cambodia, Bangladesh and Myanmar [Burma] with false promises of well paying jobs in prosperous Thailand.  Instead, they sell the men to captains for a few hundred dollars and the captives are held at sea, no land in sight, for years on end. Boats make perfect prisons. 

Meanwhile, families at home wait for their men to return--elders plow fields, wives hold funerals after years of absence.  Entire villages in Cambodia and Myanmar are eerily without men.   

This flow of slaves from northern Asian nations to southern ones through the Thai fleet is estimated in the hundreds of thousands, though it has likely crossed the million man mark. It’s such a staggering problem that the U.S. Ambassador in charge of investigating global human trafficking, Luis C DeBaca, says the slave trade onto Thai boats knocks the entire economy of Southeast Asia off kilter. And, because Thailand is the second biggest supplier of fish to the United States, he believes our reliance on slave fish threatens American food security.