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19 Trafficked Burmese Fishermen Rescued From Fishing Boat in Pattani, Southern Thailand



Trafficked Burmese fishermen disembark the boat on which they were detained off Pattani, southern Thailand, on Sunday. (Photo: Myanmar Association in Thailand)

Trafficked Burmese fishermen disembark the boat on which they were detained off Pattani, southern Thailand, on Sunday. (Photo: Myanmar Association in Thailand)



PATTANI – Nineteen Myanmar human trafficking victims have been rescued in Thailand, state media and an activist group said Tuesday (Jul 12), a rare policing success against criminal networks that dominate the region.

The group were discovered by Thai police locked up on an Indonesian-flagged fishing vessel off the coast of Thailand’s southern Pattani district on Sunday, the Irrawaddy reported.

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.

Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT) communications officer 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 unknown locations in southern Thailand.

Kyaw Thaung, director of the association, told Irrawaddy that the victims, some of whom were as young as 13, were lured with the promise of work in Bangkok but instead found themselves locked on the fishing vessel.

“A police force raided the fishing boat to Indonesia and found 19 Burmese workers there,” he said. “They had been there about 10 days already.”

A Burmese broker was arrested at the scene, he added.

Thai police did not respond to requests for comment but a source at Myanmar’s human trafficking police division in Naypyidaw confirmed that the raid rescued 19 citizens.

Drawn by the lure of comparatively higher wages, millions of Myanmar’s poor work inside Thailand, often in unregulated industries where they routinely face exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous employers.

The kingdom had long been a human trafficking hub, aided by officials who either turned a blind eye or were complicit in the grim but lucrative trade.

Since seizing power in 2014, Thailand’s government has tried to clean up the country’s image, launching a crackdown last year against human traffickers with some success. It has also tried to reform the country’s multi-billion-dollar fishing sector, which has long been accused of using widespread slave labour.

But Sunday’s raid suggests criminal networks are still finding ways to traffic or press-gang vulnerable migrant workers.

Source:  Associated Press, Irrawaddy

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