Freedom from Slave Fishing Ships

January 04, 2016 Cazzie Reyes Photos 
Forced Labor, Rescue, Aftercare, Travel

 2015 became a pivotal year for antislavery activists working against forced and bonded labor in Thailand. Exposés by The Guardian, Associated Press and Reuters revealed enslaved Thai and migrant workers catching seafood products sold by major retailers around the world. The Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN) has been working since 2006 to stop these abuses and to establish better conditions for workers.

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The Labour Rights Promotion Network provides vital support services for thousands of trafficked fishermen in Thailand as well as Indonesia. The organization engages in survivor-led awareness activities, collaborates with the government on legislation and rescue efforts, provides aftercare, pursues cases against traffickers and invests in the long-term well-being of workers and their children. Labour Rights Promotion Network founder Sompong Srakaew is one of the Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes from 2008. Respected by both officials and migrant worker communities, he has continued to work tirelessly for those coming from all parts of Southeast Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Myanmar.

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Small Thai fishing boats that only carry 40-60 men are usually free from slave labor and don’t exploit workers. These boats are out at sea for one to four days and eventually dock back at a port. Slave-like practices are more likely to take place on motherships and vessels that go out to sea for months at a time.

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Overfishing, pressure to decrease prices, labor shortages and a high demand for seafood along with ineffective policies and lack of inspections have led to cases of forced and bonded labor. LPN found 39 dead, trafficked fishermen inside these Indonesian boats.

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“I was born into poverty. I tried to study and go to school. After that, I tried to receive work and earn an income. So, I applied to a Thai company. I didn’t know I was going to be trafficked. For two years, I worked in the Thai company’s boats in Benjina, one of Indonesia’s islands. There were many workers there from Thailand. Some were forced by captains and companies.” Chairat (center) was forced to work on the boats and later locked up in the company’s “jail,” a makeshift cell for workers, until government authorities and LPN staff members intervened.

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Along with Chairat and other survivors, Akaradetch (right) helps lead the Thai Fishers Association to help inform NGOs and fishermen about conditions in the Thai fishing industry.

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Originally from Indonesia, Samak is one of LPN’s investigators and social workers. He, along with other staff members, go on fact-finding missions to gather evidence against fraudulent brokers, captains and companies. In addition, Samak is involved in the short and long-term care of migrant workers. He takes them to health care and aftercare facilities, helps pursue legal cases against brokers and assists in the reintegration process.

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This is a shot inside one of the model schools supported by LPN, located at the heart of one of Samut Sakhon’s migrant community areas. Here, migrant children are integrated into the public education system and taught interpersonal skills that help them participate in Thai society.

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As trafficking in Thailand gains international attention, the Labour Rights Promotion Network consistently networks with other local, national and international NGOs and the Thai government to address the plight of workers in the fishing industry.


Topics: Forced Labor, Rescue, Aftercare, Travel

About the Author



Cazzie Reyes

Cazzie Reyes is a Researcher for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's Anti-Trafficking Programs. She graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor's degree in International Studies and a minor in Women's Studies.