At Least 30 Trafficking Victims Rescued In Phuket

By Khin Oo Tha 29 January 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — More than 30 Burmese human trafficking victims were rescued from confinement in a fishing port in Thailand’s Phuket Province on Thursday with the assistance of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division of Thailand, the Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT) has confirmed.

The Burmese fishermen were discovered locked inside a small room allegedly by a trafficking gang led by Burmese nationals, MAT director Kyaw Thaung told The Irrawaddy. MAT cooperates with Thai authorities to identify and rescue victims of trafficking.

“More than 30 victims were locked inside a small, hot, choking room. They had to eat and relieve themselves in the same place. It was like hell,” said Kyaw Thaung. “I was shocked to see them.”

The trafficking gang is allegedly headed by a Burmese national known as Ko Pett, who escaped arrest, but his wife was detained by authorities.

Most of the victims are in their 20s and 30s and some have been in Thailand for six months. All of the victims held official work permits, according to MAT.

Victims also reported human rights violations and abuse aboard the fishing boats. After returning to land following a fishing trip, some reported being locked inside the small room described by Kyaw Thaung.

Inhumane conditions for Burmese laborers in Southeast Asia’s seafood and fishing industries have garnered international attention throughout 2015, as recent investigations have exposed abuse in the supply chains of retailers worldwide.

In July, The Irrawaddy reported on a raid of a Bangkok shrimp peeling factory which freed more than 60 Burmese nationals being held captive by another Burmese employment broker who had trafficked them.

More than 500 Burmese men were rescued from Indonesia earlier this year after being trafficked and enslaved on fishing boats.

Translation by Thet Ko Ko.