Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Survery finds fishermen in Thailand ‘trafficked, abused’

Survery finds fishermen in Thailand ‘trafficked, abused’

Trafficked fishermen arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport in 2014 after they were rescued from Thai fishing boats. The Thai fishing industry is notorious for relying on trafficked labour.
Trafficked fishermen arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport in 2014 after they were rescued from Thai fishing boats. The Thai fishing industry is notorious for relying on trafficked labour. Vireak Mai

Survery finds fishermen in Thailand ‘trafficked, abused’

Trafficking in the Thai fishing industry remains rampant, with fishermen from Cambodia and Myanmar often experiencing horrifying work conditions, according to the results of a survey of workers.

In the study by Issara Institute – commissioned by the International Justice Mission (IJM) and published last week – just over 87 percent of respondents experienced significant forms of exploitation and/or trafficking in their work at sea, including almost 40 percent experiencing clear examples of trafficking.

More than 70 percent of the almost 250 Burmese and Cambodians surveyed in five provinces of Thailand reported they had to work at least 16 hours per day, with an average monthly pay of about $180. “In some cases, workers were beaten and their lives threatened if they did not keep working through these excessively long durations of time,” the authors wrote.

The vast majority also reported physical and psychological abuse. For example, “reports were heard across all sampled provinces of fishermen sick at sea with body aches and fever being threatened to be pushed overboard or killed if they did not continue to work”.

But the abuse didn’t end once they left the ship.

“In some piers of Sichon district, Nakhon Si Thammarat province, brokers reportedly wait for the workers on the pier to put them into lock-ups immediately after disembarkation,” the report said. “Another broker reportedly has a gun and has killed some fishermen before: the fishermen believe that this broker will kill or torture them if they run away.”

Peter Williams, country director of IJM Cambodia, said in an email that “there is still much work to be done to protect Cambodian men from exploitation as they migrate to Thailand”. He said coordination between Thai and Cambodian law enforcements, courts and social services would “lead to swifter and stronger responses to traffickers”.

Among workers interviewed, some complained that police in Thailand and brokers were collaborating to keep them under control.

“Respondents in Pattani [a coastal province], when attempting to leave their job, reported experiencing brokers and police working together to control the crew,” the report said. In Pattani and other provinces, researchers found, workers were under the impression boat owners had “protective” relationships with the authorities to keep workers in check.

Trafficking cases involving Cambodian men going to Thailand in the hopes of better work opportunities often make headlines. In one case, boat owner Kamneungnuan Wongkajornkitti is being prosecuted following the rescue of 15 Cambodian fishermen from two ships early last year. The case, filed before Wongkajornkitti turned himself in in July, is at the Thai Court of Appeal.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be