A new report by UK activists points to slave labor in the Thai fishing industry—whose biggest buyer happens to be the US. The Environmental Justice Foundation report, published Wednesday, cites a case of slave labor in which 15 Burmese people, paid little or nothing, were allegedly beaten and forced to work 20 hours a day for Thai fishermen. Those Burmese workers, since rescued, say they saw their countrymen murdered and tortured on Thai ships. "This is not an isolated case, but indicative of the widespread acceptance and use of modern slavery in an industry that feeds a global appetite for seafood," says an EJF rep.
For the past three years, the US State Department has placed Thailand on the Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking. That's out of three tiers, the Christian Science Monitor reports, and a move to Tier 3—as activists are requesting—would put Thailand among the world's biggest offenders. But Thailand exported $1.8 billion in fish products to the US in 2011; the countries' strong relationship makes the odds of a downgrade slim, some experts say. This month, a top Thai official pledged improvements during a meeting with John Kerry; he asked the secretary of state not to alter Thailand's status.