Trafficked Burmese Fishermen Rescued in Southern Thailand

By Moe Myint 11 July 2016

RANGOON — Nineteen trafficked Burmese fishermen were rescued from a boat moored at a jetty off the southern Thai city of Pattani on Sunday, according to the director of the Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT), which mounted the rescue alongside the Anti-Human Trafficking Division (AHTD) of the Royal Thai Police.

MAT director Kyaw Thaung said his organization has collaborated with the AHTD over several years to crack down on human trafficking. A Burmese informant had told him of six Burmese migrant workers being “bullied and threatened” by their employer at a jetty off Pattani. The MAT “immediately” investigated the matter, he said.

On Sunday, Thai police arrested a Thai businessman and a Burmese woman from Mon State, who were both accused of being directly involved in the trafficking case.

MAT communications officer Sai Aye, who took part in the rescue, told The Irrawaddy over the phone about the disparate origins of the trafficked Burmese men, including eight men from Arakan State, and five men and a 13-year-old boy from Mon State. All were being detained in a “hole” in the same fishing boat.

“Thai police are now questioning the [trafficking] victims to find out more about the smugglers responsible,” said Sai Aye.

Sai Aye explained that a Burmese woman had promised six of them a job at a factory in Pattaya paying 9000 Thai baht (US$256) a month, only to take them to Pattani. When the workers realized they had been cheated and asked the female broker if they could return home, she asked for 25,000 baht ($712) from each of them as “compensation.”

The rescued fishermen testified at the nearby police station that around 80 trafficked Burmese fishermen were also being held against their will at an unknown location in southern Thailand.

The MAT is providing up-to-date information on the matter to the Burmese Embassy in Thailand, and the Thai police said they would follow up on these reports.

The Irrawaddy contacted the Burmese Embassy in Thailand by phone, but the official who answered said they were currently too busy to provide any clarification.

MAT communications officer Sai Aye said his organization renders assistance to migrant workers suffering rights violations under unscrupulous employers in Thailand “regardless of race and religion.”

He said they had successfully helped 130 Burmese and 90 Cambodian migrants workers in obtaining 3 million baht ($85,425) in withheld salary payments from a construction company in Thailand.