The survey, commissioned by anti-slavery NGO the International Justice Mission and funded by the Walmart Foundation, questioned migrant fishermen who worked on Thai boats from 2011-2016.
Of those questioned, 14% said they had been physically abused, 31.5% had witnessed a crewmate’s abuse at sea and 76% had accrued debt before they had even started work.
“No person should have to live under the oppression or ownership of another, and, as consumers, we shouldn’t have to wonder if the products we’re purchasing are the result of violent injustice,” said Gary Haugen, chief executive of IJM.
The NGO believes that Thailand’s government has made significant efforts to combat human trafficking since strengthening its anti-trafficking legislation twice in recent years.
In 2015 it deployed specialist anti-trafficking units across the entire criminal justice system and legislated for criminal procedures.
But unless the Thai system “routinely and effectively holds traffickers accountable, boat captains, brokers, recruiters, local business owners and complicit, officials will continue to abuse vulnerable migrant labourers at sea and on shore with impunity,” the organisation said in a statement.
"Progress against human trafficking is being made, but there is still more work to do,” it added.