October 18, 2010
KYAW-KYAW grimaces as he explains how he was sold, like a spare bit of machinery, to a Thai trawler captain. And how his life then slid into a nightmare of beatings, amphetamines, perpetually interrupted sleep and casual death.
Kyaw-Kyaw is 25 years old, and he can’t read or write. When he was 15 he fled from the violence and crushing poverty of eastern Burma’s Karen state and wound up in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, where he earned a bare living tending water buffalo.
A year ago, a broker arrived in his village offering work and a tempting, up-front inducement. “The broker told me I would have a good job and he gave me 8000 baht [$270] cash,” Kyaw-Kyaw says. “I asked him the nature of the work but he didn’t answer. He just said I would earn 5000 baht ($170) a month.” The broker took him south to the coast and directly to the Thai trawler – which is where he first learned he would be working at sea. “He sold me straight to the fishing boat,” Kyaw-Kyaw says with some bitterness.
Australia spends many millions of dollars a year on wild-caught fish from Thailand, where the industry is fed by thousands of boats of varying sizes and degrees of shabbiness. read more..