In March 2013, 14 victims aged between 16 and 46 years, and all from Myanmar, were rescued by local police from a fishing port and processing factory in Kantang where they were being held by brokers. Most of the victims had just returned from six months at sea, on three separate fishing vessels. Despite receiving no pay, by selling dried squid to the boat they transferred fish to, one of the group was able to save enough money to buy a mobile phone and SIM card. This enabled them to alert one of the other victim’s family members, who contacted a helpline for reporting human trafficking to secure their rescue. EJF interviewed six victims, none of whom had ever been on a fishing boat, or even seen the sea before being trafficked. They gave accounts of being deceived by brokers who told them they would be working in factories. They reported being beaten or seeing others beaten, and working in arduous conditions onboard the fishing vessels. Three of the victims had been trafficked from within Thailand, whilst working in a chicken factory in the north of the country. A visiting broker had told them that he would secure them a better job in another factory, with higher wages. "Htay" discusses that, in addition to forcing labour on the fishing ships, the perpetrators in this case were also committing illegal fishing in Indonesian waters.
Our boat was stealing fish from Indonesian waters. We were chased many times by Indonesian boats. People said we would be killed in Indonesia if we got caught. When the Captain saw the boat on the radar, they told us to pull up the nets as soon as possible, and then flee away.
The brokers told me that if I did not want to go, I should look at this gun because I could be killed very easily. They said a bullet only costs 12 baht.
I was really frightened to get on the boat, because I had heard stories of people being sold on the boat. I was really afraid. On the boat, I was unhappy everyday. Sometimes I even felt like jumping into the sea.
As told to the Environmental Justice Foundation