Portrait of slavery: Teenager facing life alone in Myanmar

AP News
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Posted: Dec 17, 2015 8:24 AM
Portrait of slavery: Teenager facing life alone in Myanmar

SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand (AP) — For the past year, The Associated Press has investigated slave labor in Thailand's $7 billion seafood export industry, resulting in the freeing of more than 2,000 fishermen. This week, the AP came out with another investigation looking at slavery in shrimp processing sheds in Thailand. This is the story of one of those victims:

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Shortly after police raided the Gig Peeling Factory last month for labor abuses, undocumented child workers were taken to a corner of the shed where they squatted on wet concrete slick with slime from the shrimp they had peeled.

When they were told they would be separated from their parents, many children started to cry, including 16-year-old Eae Hpaw. Her eyes were red and swollen, and fear filled her face as she talked to her mother. Other children hugged their parents and looked uncertain about what would happen next.

Ten children were taken to a government shelter for human-trafficking where a Burmese diplomat told them they had to stay there, possibly for years, or get deported back to Myanmar.

"I don't have parents in Myanmar to go back to," said Eae Hpaw. "I have no one there. My parents and my relatives are all here. My parents were also in the shrimp shed."

The children argued they wanted to stay in Thailand with their families, but ultimately relented after they were told that wasn't an option.

All 10 children remained in the shelter Wednesday, according to a local labor rights group.