Stories of people in Force Labour
FARUD’S* STORY of working on a cotton farm in Uzbekistan
Uzbek citizens are forced to pick cotton for the state.
In September 2013, the police visited supermarket owner Farud (name changed at person’s request) and ordered him to close his supermarketbecause the residents needed to be picking cotton during the harvest, not congregating in the supermarket. Farud refused because he did not want to miss out on business and lose his livelihood during the harvest season.The police informed the regional governor who then issued an arrest warrant for Farud.
When he heard about the warrant out for him, he fled his hometown just as the police went to his home. They visited his home throughout the harvest looking for him, but once the harvest was over, he returned to operating the supermarket and was not harassed further.
However, during the following year’s harvest, the police returned to Farud’s supermarket. This time, they threatened to fine him an ‘extraordinary’ amount of money if he refused to close his supermarket. Facing the possibility of having to pay a fine that would bankrupt his business, he gave in. Farud sent his three employees to pick cotton and closed his supermarket for that entire period.
Being an elderly man, Farud’s health suffered during the period and he was admitted to hospital.
Barhayot Turaev’s story
I was 16-years old and excited to start my final year of secondary school in Uzbekistan when I was told that I would have to either pick cotton for no pay, have my parents pay around US$235 or face expulsion.
I did not want to spend three months picking cotton because I had heard that the conditions were terrible so I refused to go. I thought that that was the end of the issue but when I tried to enter the school I was informed that I had been expelled and would not be allowed to return to school.
When my parents tried to contact the school administrators, they simply informed them that if they did not mobilize enough students then they would lose their jobs so I had to go pick cotton with the others.
MYINT THEIN’S STORY*
There is nothing but a jagged line of splinters where Myint Thein’s teeth once stood – a painful reminder, he says, of the day he was beaten and sold on to a Thai fishing boat.
For the past two years, Burmese fisherman Myint Thein, 29, has been forced to work 20-hour days as a slave on a Thai fishing boat, enduring regular beatings from his captain and eating little more than a bowl of rice each day.
He paid a middleman two years ago to smuggle him across the border into Thailand and find him a job in a factory. After an arduous journey travelling through dense jungle, bumpy roads and over rough waves, Myint Thein finally arrived in Kantang, a Thai port on its western, Andaman coast, where he discovered he’d been sold to a boat captain. “When I realised what had happened, I told them I wanted to go back,” he says hurriedly. “But they wouldn’t let me go. When I tried to escape, they beat me and smashed all my teeth.”
For the next 20 months, Myint Thein and three other Burmese men who were also sold to the boat trawled international waters, catching anything from squid and tuna to “trash fish”, also known as bycatch – inedible or infant species of fish later ground into fishmeal for Thailand’s multibillion-dollar farmed prawn industry. The supply chain runs from the slaves through the fishmeal to the prawns to UK and US retailers. The product of Myint Thein’s penniless labour might well have ended up on your dinner plate.
* Credit for the article goes to the Guardian