Thailand’s Fishing Boat Concerned for neighboring countries of Human Trafficking

By Sun Narin

Can’t hide from one’s shadow and the sadness have come across a Cambodian man’s life called Mr Sim Ek, who is one among hundreds of Cambodia’s men experienced working on the enslaved fishing boat in Thailand.

Mr Sim Ek is 24 years old and he’s born in Banteay Meanchey province, which is near the crossing border. Due to the deficiency in living condition and the difficulties facing his family, he decided to leave his hometown in June 2009 to work at Thailand’s border as the construction worker, earning some 100 Baht per day, which he said he could not help his family.

He said: “I was asked by a girl who is my relative to work on the boat at Paknam sea (Thailand). She told me that I would earn 15000 baht (450 dollars) per month. That was a large amount of money for me comparing to 100 baht.”

What he had expected was contradict and he, in return, did not get any money and he was forced to work without stopping and rest and was warned not to land forever. He said that the life on boat was very difficult and life threatening.

He recalled: “I had to work day and night in the rain and wind, although I was sick. I worked like the slave. If we did not work for them, they would kill us and drop from the boat. I was very terrified.” Not only him, but also his uncle and friend were in the same boat who were cheated to work on the boat. He said that there were other foreigners besides Cambodians.

Mr Sim Ek is just on of the example of the people who experienced being trafficked to work on the boat. There are other people of the Thailand-border sharing countries who share the same situation as his.

Asia Human rights website reported a story of a Lao boy (17) named Somphone and his friends was trafficked to work on the boat in Thailand. On the boat Somphone worked with a team of eighteen other Lao men. They worked very hard catching fish to fill the boxes on board. Sometimes they had no time to eat, bathe or sleep. Often they rested on the deck where they were working. Somphone was beaten by the guard if he was not seen to be working hard enough. Only when enough fish had been caught to fill all the boxes on board would they return to shore.

BBC reported in April 2011 about a 26-year-old man Zaw Zaw from Burma who was enslaved on Thai fishing boat. He is one of thousands of young men trafficked abroad Thai vessels.

According to the International Organization for Migration’s report issued on the January 14, 2011, the trafficking of men to Thai fishing boats started in earnest after the ravages of Typhoon Gay in 1989, which resulted in the sinking of over 200 fishing boats and caused at least 458 deaths (an additional 600 persons are missing and presumed dead), mostly among Thai fishing crews from the poor Northeast region of Thailand.

The report says that twenty years later, Thai fishing vessels ply the territorial waters of dozens of

nations, especially Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and travel as far as Somalia and other parts of the coast of East Africa. Yet, for an increasingly sophisticated industry, Thailand’s recruitment for workers in the fishing sector remains largely based on informal recruiting processes which often lead to abuse and foster human trafficking.

Working conditions on fishing boats are extremely arduous. Fishermen are expected to work 18 to 20 hours of back-breaking manual labour per day, seven days per week. Sleeping and eating is possible only when the nets are down and recently caught fish have been sorted. Fishermen live in terribly cramped quarters, face shortages of fresh water and must work even when fatigued or ill, thereby risking injury to themselves or others. Fishermen who do not perform according to the expectations of the boat captain may face severe beatings or other forms of physical maltreatment, denial of medical care and, in the worst cases, maiming or killing.

Local Human Rights in Cambodia, Licadho has interviewed more than 60 men who were trafficked onto Thai fishing boats since 2007. Their stories typically begin in the same way.Local newspaper Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia  reported in June 2011 that seven fishing boat workers in Thailand were rescued and sent back to Cambodia. One in five of the men in the Asia Foundation survey said they had worked in slave-like conditions on Thai and Malaysian fishing boats.

Due to the hardship the Mr Sim Ek and other Lao people that they could not face, they decided to escape from the boat by jumping from the boat.

“It was very dangerous and difficult. I thought I would die in the jungle. We walked in the forests three days and nights without anything to eat. I told police to arrest me and send me back to my hometown, but the police did not,” he said.

He said that before the police arrested him and repatriated him, he had been sold to other places and imprisoned again and again in Malaysia.

The Thai fishing industry is a large supplier of fish to Britain and other European countries. The poverty, low education and the lack of job opportunity lead these men to be deceived and trafficked to work on the fishing boat.

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