Myanmar fishing boat slaves freed north of Phuket, return home

PHUKET: Eighteen Myanmar victims of a human-trafficking group, including four children, have returned home, after being rescued by Thai authorities.

Several of the now-freed slaves were sold to fishing boats off Kawthaung, the township across the water from Ranong, which for more than a decade has been a popular “visa run” destination for foreigners in Phuket.

Saw Win Tin, 55, of Taunggu District, in Myanmar’s Bago Region, said that he was sold to a fishing boat where he worked for more than three years without pay.

“While selling crabs in Kawthaung, a person approached me and offered me a job with good salary. I agreed and I was transferred to a fishing boat,” Saw Win Tin said. “I was sold and I didn’t get any pay for over three years.”

He managed to escape when the boat docked. With assistance from a Thai student, he fled to a camp on the Thai side of the border and stayed there for a year.

Another returnee, who asked not to be named, said that many men were sold to fishing boats in Thailand while on their way to work at an oil palm plantation in Kawthaung.

“I went there to work for a company,” said the man from Paungde. “When I got there, I realized that it was not what I thought it would be. The working and living conditions were poor, so I left.

“Then an agent offered me a job, but instead he sold me to a fishing boat. There are many people like me.”

The man plans to sue the agent to bring an end to the criminal activity.

All 18 returnees were taken to Mawlamyaing Youth Training Center, under the care of Wah Wah Myint, a staff officer of the Social Welfare Department.

The trafficking survivors – 12 from Bago Region, one from Ayeyawady Region, one from Taninthayi Region, two from Kayin State, and two from Mon State – are to soon return to their hometowns, Myanmar Eleven reported.

— Myanmar Eleven

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