Fisherman Traps in SE Asia

When the financial crisis hit, Samart lost his job as a secu­rity guard in Bangkok. Preparing to go home to an impoverished area in NE Thailand, a friendly man invited him for a drink, to talk about a job on a fishing vessel. Samart decided not to take the job, but, after a few sips of his drink, he passed out. When he woke, he was astounded to find himself on a boat off Singapore – and would soon be sent into Indonesian waters, where he would remain trapped for 7 years – he was traded between boats at sea numerus times when their catch was loaded onto a larger vessel. This is how some powerless vulnerable people have found themselves trapped in slavery in the fishing industry.

Thailand is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of seafood according to UNFAO. Vulnerable migrant workers, mainly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, but also impov­erished Thais, have for years been lured onto fishing boats with promises of well-paid jobs, so many never receive salaries. This is starting to change with the biggest companies like Thai Union (a company not a union) is restructuring its operations to protect against labour abuses - but it is difficult to establish how many people remain trapped at sea because they are often hidden and lost in a large ocean with many threats and with many fearing for their life – for good reasons! “Being on a fishing boat is like having your life hang by a thread,” says Samart in the SCMP, other survivors who have been maimed at sea have told LPN that they have seen their friends killed at sea.

In Benjini and Ambon in Indonesia, officials visited these places because of media reports. Rumours got around of a possible rescue. First in 2’s and 3’s they saunted in then as the story that it was real swept through the communities they streamed in from their fishing trawlers, down the hills and even out of the jungle “running towards what they had hoped for, for years: freedom!”. AP

We cannot sit back and be moved by these stories without taking an action to help clean up the industry. Good things are starting to happen – we have to make this the new culture of fishing. Sign the petition by clicking on “Ask For A Sea-change” on the website www.buyslavefree.org