Working on a fishing boat from hell: a true story | Bangkok Post: learning

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Working on a fishing boat from hell: a true story

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Myanmar worker tells story of working on Thai fishing boat after falling victim to police human trafficking gang & finally returning, unlike others, after 23 months of slavery. 


How life on a boat turned into hell

A Myanmar migrant worker says he is lucky to be alive after falling victim to a human trafficking racket. Unlike many of his compatriots who are still ensnared in the clutches of slave labour, Ma Win, 56, returned to shore safely in Samut Sakhon after 23 harrowing months on a fishing trawler
Paritta Wangkiat

Ma Win was tricked, sold, exploited, bashed and spent sleepless nights on a fishing boat terrified of a man who had been ordered to kill him by a ruthless human trafficking boss. Amazingly, he survived to tell his story.

“I’d never thought of working on a fishing boat,” Ma Win said through a translator. “My days on the ship were not pleasant.”

He said his stressful journey into the human trafficking chain began two and a half years ago when he left his hometown in a small village near Yangon to pay respect to the Shwedagon Pagoda.

He was jobless and depressed by his mother’s recent death. He decided to leave Yangon for a job looking after range cattle in Myawaddy city opposite Tak’s Mae Sot district in Thailand.

After 10 days of work, Mr Ma Win said he was persuaded by another Myanmar man to cross the Thai-Myanmar border into Mae Sot where they were introduced to the owner of a sugarcane farm.

“I knew he was a policeman because he often wore police uniform,” Ma Win said. “I worked for him for two weeks and saw a Myanmar broker, named Sor Leng, bring 20 Myanmar people to the farm.”

The policeman met the Myanmar group and said there were good jobs at a pineapple canning factory that offered an 8,000-baht monthly salary.

Ma Win said he was asked by the policeman if he was interested in the job. He was told he would have to pay 7,000 baht as a transport fee to obtain the position.

The following night, Sor Leng led Mr Ma Win and a group of Myanmar people through a mountain area near Mae Sot’s Mae Ku sub-district.

The trek took about four days before they finally met other groups of Myanmar people waiting on the mountainside.

About 15 pickup trucks arrived at the spot to take the Myanmar people from the area at 3am. None of the migrants had passports or work permits.

They arrived at a pineapple canning factory in Kanchanaburi at 11am. A Myanmar couple, “Kuku” and “Matusa”, who appeared to be brokers, turned up and demanded 13,000 baht from Ma Win for transport to the factory.

A life of misery

Having no money, Mar Win said he was prepared to work at the factory to pay the fee in monthly instalments.

He was able to pay 9,000 baht after four months but the brokers, who appeared to be husband and wife, said his debt payment was slow so he had to be sent to work at Mahachai to pay off the remaining debt.

Ma Win said three Myanmar brokers named “Ma Yee Piw,” “Ta Nga” and “Sor Wen” came to pick up Mr Ma Win at the factory and paid 10,000 baht to Kuku and Matusa.

The three took him to Mahachai and locked him in a room for two days. He remembered seeing a temple near the room.

Sor Wen then took him to a fishing boat at a pier in Krokkrak sub-district of Samut Sakhon.

He saw a Thai skipper of the boat pay Sor Wen what he estimated was 30,000 baht. He also saw Sor Leng take two Myanmar migrants to the fishing boat.

Sor Wen told him he would earn 9,000 baht a month working on the fishing boat. There were three Cambodian and 35 Myanmar people on the boat.

“I realised at that point that I was sold. But I couldn’t leave as the boat was about to leave the pier,” he said.

The boat set sail for Indonesian waters where he was shifted to another fishing boat that carried five Myanmar workers and two Thais. He was provided with a passport.

On his first day on the fishing boat he was bashed by the Thai skipper after he dropped a fish on the deck.

He said he was also kicked on one occasion by a Thai sailor because he was too sick to get up from bed. There were no rest days on board.

“The working conditions were tough,” he said. “But I was on a boat, how could I run away?”

His days of despair continued until the 21st month when he met a Myanmar fisherman at a pier in Indonesia. The man passed him a phone number of a United Nations official.

The Myanmar fisherman advised him to turn himself in to the Indonesian police and sent a text message to the UN official to ask police to contact the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta to help him.

Ma Win said he followed the advice three times but each time was sent back to the boat by police.

He finally decided to call the UN official, which prompted her [the official] to contact the Myanmar embassy in Indonesia directly. Soon the embassy official came to take him from the boat and sent him to a hospital for a medical checkup.

The official discovered his passport, provided by the ship’s Thai skipper, was fake.

The embassy later issued a new passport to him and ordered the boat skipper to take him back to Mahachai.

But that was not the end of the ordeal, Ma Win said. He said he spent nine sleepless nights on board the fishing boat while travelling back to Mahachai after one of the Myanmar fishermen confessed he had been ordered by the skipper to kill him to cover up the fake passport issue.

“He told me I was as old as his father and he couldn’t kill me,” Ma Win said.

Ma Win said he arrived back in Mahachai on June 7 and was picked up at the fishing pier by an official from the Thailand-based Labour Right Promotion Network.

He said he worked on the boat for 23 months without any rest and was paid only 3,000 baht a month. Ma Win said he did not know about the fate of the other Myanmar people he met on the same boat and other fishing boats.

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advice: an opinion or a suggestion about what somebody should do in a particular situation - คำแนะนำ

advise: to tell somebody what you think they should do in a particular situation - แนะนำ, แจ้ง

amazingly: very surprisingly, especially in a way that makes you feel pleasure or admiration - อย่างน่าประหลาดใจ

appear: to seem - ดูเหมือนจะ, ดูเหมือนว่า

bash: to hit somebody/something very hard, usually causing damage - ทุบให้พัง, ตีอย่างแรง

border: the official line separating two areas, regions or countries - เขตแดน อาณาเขต

broker: a person or company who arranges something such as a deal, agreement, a job, etc. - นายหน้า

canned: preserved in a can - ที่บรรจุในกระป๋อง

cattle: cows and bulls that are kept as farm animals for their milk or meat - วัวควาย

chain: a series of connected things or people - เหตุการณ์ที่เกิดต่อเนื่องกัน

checkup: when a doctor looks at a person's body to check for disease and make sure the person is healthy - การตรวจร่างกาย

clutches: control - การควบคุม

compatriot: a person who is from the same country as you are - คนชาติเดียวกัน

conditions: the circumstances or situation in which people live, work or do things - เหตุการณ์, สภาพการ, สถานการณ์

confess: to admit that you have committed a crime - สารภาพผิด

contact: having communication with someone - การติดต่อ การสัมผัส

continued: happening or existing for a period of time without interruption - ซึ่งติดต่อกัน, ซึ่งต่อเนื่องกัน

cover up: an action that is taken to hide a mistake or illegal activity from the public - การปกปิด, การปิดป้อง

debt: an amount of money that you owe - หนี้, นี้สิน

deck: the top outside floor of a ship, boat or building - ดาดฟ้าเรือ

demand: a very firm request for something - ข้อเรียกร้อง, การเรียกร้อง

depressed: very sad and without hope - เศร้าซึม

despair: the feeling that there is no hope and that you can do nothing to improve a difficult or worrying situation - สิ้นหวัง, ความรู้สึกสิ้นหวัง, ความหมดหวัง

embassy: a building where a group of officials work who represent their government in a foreign country - สถานทูต

embassy: a group of officials who represent their government in a foreign country - สถานทูต

ensnared: caught in a trap or a bad situation and cannot leave or go free -

exploit: to treat someone unfairly in order to get some benefit for yourself - หาประโยชน์จาก

fake: made to look like something real in order to trick people - ที่ทำปลอม

fate: the things that happen or will happen to someone - ชะตากรรม

fee: an amount of money that someone pays to be allowed to do something, or in this case, to hire someone - ค่าธรรมเนียม, ค่าจ้าง

harrowing: causing anguish; talking of ill-treatment, torture, torment, abuse - ทรมาน, ทารุณ, ประทุษร้าย, ทรมาทรกรรม, ทำให้ลำบาก, ทำทารุณ

instalment: one of many payments made every month to pay for something or pay back a loan - งวด, งวดเงินผ่อน, เงินผ่อน

issue: a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น

journey: travelling from one place to another, especially when they are far apart - การเดินทาง

labour: people whose job involves hard physical work that is not skilled, especially work that is done outdoors - กรรมกร, ผู้ใช้แรงงาน

lock: used to close a door, drawer or other place so that other people cannot enter - กุญแจ

medical: connected with illness and injury and their treatment - ทางการแพทย์, ด้านการแพทย์, เกี่ยวกับการแพทย์

message: a piece of written or spoken information that you send to someone, especially when you cannot speak to them directly - ข่าวสาร, ข้อความ

migrant: someone who travels to another place or country in order to find work (an immigrant is someone who comes to live in a country from another country) - ผู้อพยพ

migrant worker: someone who travels to another place or country in order to find work - คนงานต่างถิ่น

misery: something that causes people to suffer or be unhappy - ความทุกข์ยาก, ความยากแค้น, ความเดือดร้อน

obtain: to get something that you want or need, especially by going through a process that is difficult - ได้มา, ได้รับ

occasion: a time at which something happens - ครั้ง, โอกาส

official: someone with an important position in an organisation - เจ้าหน้าที่

officials: people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

on board: on a ship, aircraft or vehicle - บนหรือใน (เรือ, รถ, เครื่องบินหรือพาหนะอื่น)

opposite: across from or facing someone or something - ที่อยู่ตรงกันข้าม

ordeal: an extremely unpleasant experience, especially one that lasts for a long time - ประสบการณ์ที่แสนสาหัส

order: to use your position of authority to tell somebody to do something or say that something must happen - สั่ง

passport: the official government document that people need to travel outside their own country - หนังสือเดินทาง

pay respect to: to show deep admiration for someone - แสดงความเคารพ

persuade: to make someone agree to do something by giving them reasons why they should - โน้มน้าวใจ เกลี้ยกล่อม

pick up: to get a person at one place to bring them to another place -

pier: a platform sticking out into water which people walk along or use when getting onto or off boats - ท่าเรือชนิดยื่นออกไปในน้ำ, สะพานที่ยื่นออกไปในน้ำ

pleasant: enjoyable or attractive in a way that makes you feel pleased and satisfied - ถูกใจ, พอใจ, เพลิดเพลิน

position: a job - ตำแหน่ง

prepared to: ready to do ... -

prompt: to cause someone to take action - กระตุ้น

racket: an illegal activity that earns money - การหาเงินโดยผิดกฎหมาย

range: a line or group of mountains or hills - ทิวเขา, แนวเขา, เทือกเขา

realise: to know about - ตระหนัก  รู้

recent: happening or starting a short time ago - เร็วๆ นี้

remain: to still be present after the other parts have been removed, used, etc; to continue to exist - ยังเหลืออยู่

run away: escape - หนี

ruthless: not thinking or worrying about any pain caused to others; cruel - ไร้ความปรานี, โหดเหี้ยม

salary: a fixed amount of money that you earn each month or year from your job - เงินเดือน

shift: to move to another place; to change - ย้าย, เปลี่ยน

shore: the land along the edge of the sea or ocean, a lake or another large area of water - ชายฝั่ง

skipper: the captain or manager of a team - ผู้นำทีม

slave: a person who is owned by other people; a person who is treated as a thing to be owned, personal property of another - ทาส, ผู้ทำงานหนักและได้ค่าแรงต่ำ

spot: the particular place where someone or something is - ที่, สถานที่

stressful: involving or causing a lot of pressure or worry - ตึงเครียด

survived: continued to live or exist - รอดมาได้

terrified: very frightened - ตกใจ, ใจหาย, ขวัญหนี

tough: difficult to do or to deal with - ยาก ยากลำบาก

trafficking: dealing in illegal goods, like drugs, weapons or in illegally moving humans or animals from one place to another - การค้าสิ่งที่ผิดกฎหมาย

translator: a person who takes something that a person says or writes in one language and says it or writes it in another language - นักแปล, ผู้แปล

transport: moving people or things from one place to another - การขนส่ง

trawler: a boat used for fishing by pulling a large net through the water - เรืออวนลาก

trek: a long and difficult journey, usually but not always on foot - การเดินทาง

trick: something that you do to make somebody believe something which is not true - การหลอกลวง, การเล่นกล

turn up: to come somewhere, especially unexpectedly or without making a firm arrangement - มาถึง (โดยไม่คาดคิดมาก่อน)

uniform: the special set of clothes worn by all members of an organisation or a group at work, or by children at school - เครื่องแบบ

victim: someone who has been affected by a bad situation, such as a disaster, illness or an accident - เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย

work permit: the official permission for a foreigner to work in a country -

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