Sea slavery in Thailand
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Sea slavery in Thailand

BP has previously blogged about a report from Dan Rivers about slavery at sea for migrant workers in Thailand.

Patrick Winn of Global Post has a 3 series report on the issue (part 1; part 2; and part 3). From Part 2:

Years ago, I saw an entire foreign crew shot dead,” said Da, a 38-year-old Thai crewman who has worked the seas since 18. “There were 14 of them. They’d been out to sea for five years straight without compensation. The boss didn’t want to pay up, so he lined them up on the side of the boat and shot them one by one.”

Twelve bodies dropped into the sea, Da said; two slumped forward, and bled out on the deck. “I was ordered to dump them into the water,” he said, “and clean up the mess.”

On land, Thai long-haul fishermen tend to occupy society’s lower rungs. “A lot of guys run to the sea to escape the law,” Jord said. But on the open sea, these misfits occupy the higher caste. Their inferiors, trafficked migrants, are compelled to make themselves useful or else.

Murder is obscenely common. Of the seven ex-slaves interviewed by GlobalPost in Thailand and Cambodia, four had witnessed a killing aboard a Thai trawler. So did nearly 60 percent of a 49-man set of rescued captives profiled by a UN anti-trafficking team in 2009.

“I once saw a captain grab a metal spike used to mend nets and stab a fisherman in the chest,” said Moeun Pich, 32, a former sea slave from Cambodia’s central Kampong Thom province. “The crew pulled a sleeping bag over his corpse and rolled it overboard.”

BP: Go and have a read…

btw, some background info below:

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2011 issued by the State Department for Thailand states:

THAILAND (Tier 2 Watch List)

Thailand is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Individuals from neighboring countries, as well as from further away such as Uzbekistan and Fiji, migrate to Thailand for reasons including to flee conditions of poverty. Migrants from Burma, who make up the bulk of migrants in Thailand, seek economic opportunity and escape from military repression. The majority of the trafficking victims identified within Thailand are migrants from Thailand’s neighboring countries who are forced, coerced, or defrauded into labor or commercial sexual exploitation; conservative estimates have this population numbering in the tens of thousands of victims. Trafficking victims within Thailand were found employed in maritime fishing, seafood processing, low-end garment production, and domestic work. Evidence suggests that the trafficking of men, women, and children in labor sectors such as commercial fisheries, fishing-related industries, and domestic work was a significant portion of all labor trafficking in Thailand.

….An IOM report released in May 2011 noted prevalent forced labor conditions, including debt bondage, among Cambodian and Burmese individuals recruited – some forcefully or through fraud – for work in the Thai fishing industry. According to the report, Burmese, Cambodian, and Thai men were trafficked onto Thai fishing boats that traveled throughout Southeast Asia and beyond, and who remained at sea for up to several years, did not receive pay, were forced to work 18 to 20 hours per day for seven days a week, and were threatened and physically beaten. Similarly, an earlier UNIAP study found 29 of 49 (58 percent) surveyed migrant fishermen trafficked aboard Thai fishing boats had witnessed a fellow fishermen killed by boat captains in instances when they were too weak or sick to work. Fishermen typically did not have written employment contracts with their employer. ….

….Thailand is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. Given the significant scope and magnitude of trafficking in Thailand, there continued to be a low number of convictions for both sex and labor trafficking, and of victims identified among vulnerable populations. ….

… A study released during the year on the trafficking of fishermen in Thailand found that investigations of alleged human trafficking on Thai fishing boats, as well as inspections of these boats, were practically nonexistent, according to surveyed fisherman, NGOs, and government officials. The justice system remained slow in its handling of criminal cases, including trafficking cases.

From a UN news agency report:

Those lucky enough to escape report 20-hour work days, food deprivation, regular beatings and threats at the hands of the crew, many of whom are armed.

“The captain had a gun. We had no choice but to work,” said one survivor.

So bad are conditions that those deemed expendable are tossed overboard.

“Many of these men have been badly traumatized by what’s happened to them,” Mom Sok Char, programme manager for Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), a local NGO and one of the first to monitor the trafficking of men, explained. “After months of forced labour, that’s understandable.”


Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, called on the Thai government to “do more to combat human trafficking effectively and protect the rights of migrant workers who are increasingly vulnerable to forced and exploitative labour.

“Thailand faces significant challenges as a source, transit and destination country,” said the UN expert at the end of her 12-day mission to the country.

“The trend of trafficking for forced labour is growing in scale in the agricultural, construction and fishing industries,” she said.

BP: See also this AFP report.

h/t to a reader