Amid claims of trafficking, Cambodian villagers file a lawsuit against US and Thai seafood companies

The complainants allege that factory managers confiscated their passports and made them work for wages which were 'less than promised'.

By: Reuters | New York | Updated: June 17, 2016 10:25:48 am
Thai Seafood industry, Cambodian villagers, lawsuit against US, villagers file lawsuit US, human trafficking in seafood industry, Thailand, United States, Walmart sea food, world news, Thailand news Female workers sorting shrimp at a seafood market in Mahachai, Thailand. (Source: AP File Photo)

Rural Cambodian villagers have filed a lawsuit against four US and Thai companies, accusing them of trafficking and making them work in forced-labor conditions in a Thai seafood factory.

Their civil complaint filed in California federal court accuses the four companies in a joint venture of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a US law that aims to prevent human trafficking.

Retailing giant Walmart purchases shrimp and other seafood from the companies, two of which have US offices, according to the complaint.

Share This Article
Share
Related Article

Watch Video: What’s making news

The five men and two women filing suit in a Los Angeles court claim that after they left their homeland for Thailand, factory managers confiscated their passports and made them work up to six days a week for wages that were less than promised.

Some “were reduced to eating seafood they found washed up on the beach,” the complaint said.

It also added that they were not allowed to retrieve their passports to leave and return home.

“What happened to me was wrong,” said Keo Ratha in a statement accompanying the lawsuit. “I filed this suit so companies would think twice before exploiting trafficked workers in the future.”

The complaint claims the Cambodian workers were victims of involuntary and debt servitude, forced labor and human trafficking in 2010 and 2011.

The named companies include Rubicon Resources, incorporated in Delaware with an office in Culver City, California, and Wales & Co. Universe Ltd., incorporated in Thailand but registered to conduct business in California, the complaint said.

The two Thai companies are Phatthana Seafood and SS Frozen Food. No lawyers were listed in court documents for the defendants.

Walmart did not respond immediately to a request for comment, Rubicon Resources did not answer an email and telephone calls and Wales & Co. Universe could not be reached.

The workers are seeking an unspecified amount of money for unpaid wages, mental anguish, pain and suffering in the suit, filed on Wednesday in US District Court for the Central District of California.

“These are lovely, hard-working and decent people who really deserve better,” their lead attorney Agnieszka Fryszman told the media.

Thailand’s reputation has suffered in recent years after numerous investigations by news organizations and rights groups into human trafficking, slavery and violence in its multi-billion dollar seafood industry. It has vowed to crack down on human trafficking and slavery and recently introduced reforms to its fisheries law.

Nearly 21 million people globally are victims of forced labor, an industry that generates $150 billion a year in illegal profits, according to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO).

essar, essar leaks, mukesh ambani, anil ambani, suresh prabhu, tina ambani, icici bank chief, essar phone tap, phone tapping pmo, vajpayee, pramod mahajan, news, indian express, express essar, essar express

For all the latest World News, download Indian Express App

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement