Res­cued fish­er­men say hun­dreds trapped in south

The Myanmar Times - - News - ZAW ZAW HTWE za­wza­whtwe@mm­times.com

FOUR Myan­mar fish­er­men who were en­slaved on Thai fish­ing boats and later aban­doned on re­mote In­done­sian is­lands have re­counted how they again be­came trapped on a trawler – this time in their home coun­try.

Last week, fol­low­ing an­other res­cue, they told The Myan­mar Times the abuse they had en­dured in Myan­mar was be­yond any­thing they had ex­pe­ri­enced over­seas and called on the gov­ern­ment to im­me­di­ately launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The four fish­er­men from Kayin State’s Myawady town­ship had ven­tured to Ah Sin vil­lage in Mon State in May this year, where a friend helped them to find work on a lo­cal boat.

At first, all seemed to be go­ing well. They found jobs eas­ily enough on­board the Khit Lu Ngal, a ves­sel owned by an Ah Sin vil­lager. They were promised monthly wages of K100,000 each.

But after ply­ing the An­daman Sea for a month, they re­alised they were trapped, and had been traf­ficked once again, they said.

“We faced an even worse sit­u­a­tion in the Myan­mar fish­ing in­dus­try than in In­done­sia. Fish­er­man are al­ways be­ing beaten by the helms­men [in Myan­mar]” said Ko Hlaing Min, who had pre­vi­ously been en­slaved for 5 years on a boat in In­done­sia.

“We were forced to work for about 19 hours ev­ery day. We didn’t bathe for a whole month. We want the gov­ern­ment to know that the plight of en­slaved Myan­mar fish­er­men is worse in our own coun­try than it is over­seas,” he said.

Fish­er­man Ko Thant Zin, who had pre­vi­ously worked in a form of in­den­tured servi­tude on a boat in In­done­sia for 8 years, said he was nearly beaten to death by the Myan­mar helms­man.

“Al­though I cried for mercy by hug­ging his leg, he only stopped beat­ing me when his stick broke,” he said.

Ko Thant Zin said he had been beaten be­cause an­other man had not wo­ken up to take over from him on sen­try duty.

The four men were res­cued by the hu­man traf­fick­ing po­lice task­force after Ko Hlaing Min re­ported what was hap­pen­ing to Daw Oh­n­mar Ei Ei Chaw, coun­try pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor at the Aus­tralia-Asia Pro­gram to Com­bat Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons.

The res­cued fish­er­men say that there are hun­dreds of oth­ers also work­ing as slaves on Myan­mar fish­ing boats off the coast of Mon State and Tanintharyi Re­gion. They say that many peo­ple are sold to fish­ing boats by bro­kers where they do not get paid and are sub­jected to phys­i­cal abuse.

The four vic­tims said that cur­rently in Myan­mar there are no of­fi­cials or de­part­ments ded­i­cated to tack­ling the is­sue, as is the case in In­done­sia, where au­thor­i­ties con­duct checks of the fish­er­men’s iden­ti­ties or of the num­ber of fish­er­men on boats when they leave or re­turn to shore.

The res­cued men called on the gov­ern­ment to save the hun­dreds of other peo­ple who are be­ing abused and ex­ploited on fish­ing boats in Myan­mar.

This is not the first re­port­ing of such abuse on Myan­mar fish­ing boats on the An­daman Sea. In July of this year, an­other hu­man traf­fick­ing case was un­cov­ered in Ah Sin vil­lage.

In that case, 11 peo­ple were also sold to a fish­ing boat in Ah Sin vil­lage by a bro­ker where they were forced to work with­out pay and were sub­jected to hor­rific con­di­tions. They were res­cued by the hu­man-traf­fick­ing task­force on July 8 and 12 after they made a plea for help to the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions Myan­mar.

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