Thailand is the world's leading food exporting country not only because of the country's natural abundance, but also because the food produced here is cheaper than that of other countries. This is also true with the 100-billion-baht shrimp export industry which is now facing allegations of using child migrant labour and other exploitative labour practices to keep Thai shrimp cheaper than those of its competitors.
The shrimp industry has come under severe scrutiny after the broadcast of a documentary by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the United States last month. In the documentary which focuses on the situation in Samut Sakhon province, migrant workers talk of dreadful work conditions. Many workers are minors, working long hours, and underpaid. The documentary also touches on human trafficking, debt bondage, and police extortion.
As if on cue, the authorities and major shrimp exporters in Samut Sakhon immediately came out to deny the PBS report. This is unwise. Instead of going on the defensive, Samut Sakhon, as the centre of the shrimp industry, must come up with effective measures to regulate the shrimp industry to keep the loyalty of its US market, which is the industry's biggest customer.
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