For decades Myanmar nationals of all ethnic backgrounds have migrated to Thailand in search of economic opportunity as a result of political repression, human rights violations, civil war, economic woes, religious persecution and natural disaster in Myanmar. Currently there are 2 million registered Myanmar migrants and an estimated 1 to 3 million more undocumented migrants living and working in Thailand.
Because the Thai government refuses to grant them refugee status, they are susceptible to all kinds of abuses, as they are threatened with expulsion if they are caught by Thai authorities without a work permit. This pushes migrants to accept terrible working conditions, often in the construction, sex and fishing industries.
These photos are part of an ongoing project documenting the harsh realities of everyday life for Myanmar migrants in Thailand.
Thailand is the third-largest seafood exporter in the world. Manning its boats are migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, many of which have been sold into slave labour, bonded by debts they will never be able to pay. This is a mainly export-oriented business, which means that cheap products in western supermarkets are only possible thanks to slavery, human trafficking and extreme violence.
I've been told these Burmese migrants have seen their conditions improve after the US and EU, the second and third biggest importers of Thai seafood, threatened sanctions. However, it is widely recognised that the Thai government's attempts to end forced labour in its fishing industry have been insufficient.
A United Nations Report on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) found that among migrants trafficked in the Thai fishing industry, 59% of those interviewed have witnessed the murder of a fellow worker.