Phuket pilots blitz on fishing-boat slaves, trafficking

PHUKET: Department of Fisheries Inspector-General Khemchat Jewprasart arrived in Phuket yesterday to launch a 10-day blitz on inspecting fishing boats in order to crack down on human-trafficking in the area.

Phuket, Chumphon, Ranong and Songkhla were the first four provinces in the country to pilot the crackdown, Mr Khemchat explained.

“A temporary center has been opened at the main fishing port in Rassada, where all fishing boats arriving and departing the port must first be cleared by officials,” he said.

“Officers will check boat registration, fishing licenses and work permits of any foreign crew. The aim is to prevent the human trafficking in the fishing industry.”


Several fishing operators welcomed the move to crack down on human trafficking, but criticized the clearance procedure as too long.

“Checking every single boat every day costs us time,” said Apinun Jatuput, owner of Sor Pornchainavee fish-processing plant.

“Checking fishing boats to prevent human trafficking is a good thing, and it will improve Thailand’s image in fighting human trafficking, but it takes at least 30 minutes to clear one boat.

“Each boat has about 30 workers on board and many fishing boats arrive and leave the port at the same time. That costs us a lot of time before we can get out to sea. We need to get in and get out at the right times, according to the tides.”

Mr Apinun suggested that officials conduct random checks on boats on one day on every five, instead of every boat for all 10 days of the blitz.

Fellow fishing boat operator Surasit Sripanmat agreed.

“This new policy will affect us for sure. I agree with preventing human trafficking, but now we are the victim,” he said.

“Many boats use this port. We all depart at the same time in the evening, and we all came back in the morning. Our boats must go out every day, as the owners must pay their workers whether the boat goes out fishing or not.”

— Chutharat Plerin

Phuket News
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