The U.S. government and major business leaders are renewing their call on the Thai government to crack down on slavery in its fishing fleets, and to punish people who force migrant workers to catch seafood that can end up in the United States.
The State Department, the U.S. seafood and retail industries and a member of Congress reacted swiftly Wednesday to an Associated Press investigation published this week that found slave-caught fish clouds the supply networks of major supermarkets, restaurants and even pet stores in the United States. The AP reported that hundreds of men were trapped on the remote Indonesian island of Benjina, and tracked seafood they caught to Thai exporters who then sell to the U.S.
"It has become increasingly clear that workers in the fishing industry, many of whom are migrants, are exploited at multiple points along the supply chain, from harvesting to processing," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a briefing Wednesday.
The State Department blacklisted Thailand last year for failing to meet minimum standards in fighting human trafficking. Psaki did not say whether current trade talks with Thailand include labor rights.
The National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Fisheries Institute, in a letter to the ambassadors of Thailand and Indonesia, also demanded to know what will be done to free the slaves described in AP's coverage and bring their masters to justice. The industry leaders said that in the past they have asked the Thai government to address forced labor, but have lacked specific allegations.
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