Rescued Migrant Fishermen Appeal to Govt for Unpaid Wages

By Htun Htun 6 October 2016

RANGOON – Fishermen saved from slave-like conditions in Indonesia’s fishing industry called on Burma’s government to assist them with claiming owed salaries on Wednesday.

An investigative report on South East Asia’s fishing industry by the Associated Press (AP) in March 2015 led to more than 2,000 slaves being freed, including hundreds of Burmese migrant workers, from Indonesia.

After the report was published, the Indonesian government rescued hundreds of workers and in April 2015 launched an investigation into fishing company Pusaka Benjina Resources.

The company admitted the maltreatment of workers but denied accusations that workers were held in cages and were not paid. Thailand’s Silver Sea Reefer Co. was also involved in trafficking and exploiting Burmese migrant workers.

A total of 513 fishermen urged the government to help them obtain their unpaid salaries as they met with media at the office of Myanmar Journalist Network in Yangon on Wednesday.

“Government authorities said they would help us get back our salaries within six months after we got back to Burma. But, we have not gotten anything yet and the government has barely provided any assistance,” said U Hlaing Min, one of the fishermen.

It is now nearly one year since they arrived back in Burma but they are still struggling to make a living and some fishermen have had to go back to Thailand to find jobs, he said.

U Myint Naing worked for 22 years in fisheries on Indonesia’s isolated Benjina Island. “I have worked for so many years, but now I only demand five years’ salary. I want to get back my money for which I was tortured,” he said.

Many died while working in fishing trawlers and on Benjina Island, said the rescued fishermen.

With the assistance of the Burma government, a total of 575 Burmese migrant workers were repatriated from Indonesia in May and June last year.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.