Fishing boat slaves: Thais rescued from Indonesia

Fishing boat slaves: Thais rescued from Indonesia

With only 2 to 3 hours rest, 20-hour work days, 25 months at sea, the boss kept their documents & would not let them leave the boat.

Boi Songsap cannot hold back his tears when he meets his relatives at Suvarnabhumi airport. He, and five others, returned to Thailand on Wednesday after suffering on fishing boats for three years. Pattanapong Hirunard


Saved fishermen share plight

Survivors tell of 20-hour days, years at sea
Penchan Charoensuthipan

When Wuthisak Tantisuk was approached by a stranger trying to persuade him to work on a fishing boat, he knew he should be cautious about the man’s offer.

Unfortunately caution was not enough for Mr Wuthisak to avoid being forced to work in “hell”, before eventually ending up living as an illegal immigrant on the Indonesian island of Ambon.

The 44-year-old was among six fishermen reunited with their families in Thailand on Wednesday. The group was saved from Ambon, where they had taken refuge after escaping unbearable working conditions on deep-sea trawlers, which they counted as the worst moments of their lives.

The six men were rescued by staff from the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation.

Staff from the foundation visited Ambon between Aug 24 and Aug 29 to inspect the conditions of several deep-sea trawlers there and worked with Indonesian and Thai authorities to bring the men home.

The authorities are now striving to rescue another four Thais and 10 Myanmar fishermen who wanted to leave the island.

Mr Wuthisak told the Bangkok Post he had been drugged before being taken to the boat to begin work. He said he was aware that something bad might happen when he met the stranger early this year. After another stranger joined their conversation, he fell prey to the scheme.

“Someone might have put something in my water or replaced it with a new bottle containing drugs, because after just a few sips, I was dizzy and soon fell unconscious,’’ he said.

He woke up at a restaurant before being taken onto a fishing boat in Samut Sakhon with another 13 men who looked “unwilling” to begin their work at sea, Mr Wuthisak said.

All new crew members were forced to sign their names on loan contracts saying they had each borrowed 30,000 baht to pay brokers who had introduced them to the owners of the boats. After that, they had no life and worked night and day to settle the debts, Mr Wuthisak said.

Crew members were paid between 6,000 baht and 8,000 baht each month in return for working 20-hour days. “There were almost always jobs on the boat available,” he said.

The faster the fishermen worked, the sooner they could go to bed. “However, I never felt that I had enough sleep as I was given only two or three hours to rest,’’ he said.

Mr Wuthisak decided to escape from the trawler and eventually managed to hire an Indonesian man to take him in a small boat to Ambon.

He had to work secretly on the island since he was afraid of being found by his boss or arrested by the police.

Another victim, Narongsin Phuetmo, shared his experience.

Stuck on a fishing trawler, Mr Narongsin just wanted to escape. “I prayed every day to return home,”  said the 46-year-old Ubon Ratchathani native.

Mr Narongsin had been ordained for five years before he decided to leave the monkhood and look for a job last year. Unlike Mr Wuthisak, who was forced to work, Mr Narongsin said he was willing to work on a trawler after being promised decent wages. One day, when he found his boat had entered Indonesian waters, he planned his escape, as he had never intended to travel so far.

“What I experienced was more painful than any assault,” said another victim, Boi Songsap, 30. The Bangkok resident said his decision to take a job on a trawler was not naive.

Mr Boi had worked on fishing boats for more than 10 years, but did not want to spend long periods at sea.

He used to work at sea for up to 25 months at a time, but in July, 2011, he set out for the last time.

“I had worked on the boat for three years. It was too long,” he said.

One day, Mr Boi asked the boat’s skipper to let him come ashore, but his request was rejected and the skipper verbally abused him.

The skipper challenged Mr Boi to “return to the mainland yourself if you have a brain”. After years without rest, the words pushed Mr Boi over the edge and he vowed to escape.

Another three victims — Waiphop Chaengsai, Thongsi Phromwibut and Phiphop Philabut — were also found hiding on Ambon.

The fishermen all shared similar experiences working on fishing trawlers, including unfair wages, long hours and extended periods at sea.

Department of Employment inspector-general Singhadet Chuamnat said officials would prevent a recurrence of this kind of labour exploitation by better inspecting deep-sea fishing trawlers and fisherman identity documents — known as seaman’s books.

Many seaman’s books have been forged and kept by their bosses to prevent fishermen escaping, said Phutthiphat Loetchaowasit, chief of the Social Development and Welfare Department.

Seeing their relatives forced to work in far-flung places for long periods means the victims’ families share similar feelings.

“It’s better to live and work in our hometown on the mainland,” said Mr Boi’s aunt Saluai Sukun, as she hugged her nephew.

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  • abuse (noun): cruel, violent or unfair treatment, especially of someone who does not have the power to prevent it - การข่มเหง, การปฏิบัติไม่ดีต่อ
  • approach: to move toward someone and speak to them about something - เข้าหา
  • arrest: (of the police or, in this case, soldiers) to take someone under control because they are believed to have committed a crime - จับกุม
  • ashore: on land; towards, onto or on land, having come from an area of water such as the sea or a river - บนบก, เทียบฝั่ง, เกยฝั่ง
  • assault: attacking someone violently - การทำร้ายร่างกาย
  • authority (noun): a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • available: that you can get, use, find or buy - มีอยู่, หาได้
  • avoid: to stay away from; to not use - หลีกเลี่ยง
  • aware (adj): knowing that something exists, or to have knowledge or experience of a particular thing - ทราบ, รับรู้
  • borrow: to take money from a bank, financial organisation, person, etc. and pay it back over a period of time - ยืม
  • broker: a person who buys and sells things for other people - นายหน้า
  • caution: careful thought and lack of hurry in order to try to avoid risks or danger - ความระมัดระวัง
  • cautious: careful to avoid danger - ระมัดระวังไม่ให้เกิดขึ้น
  • challenge: to invite someone to do something difficult or risky, such as to compete or fight - ท้า
  • conditions: the circumstances or situation in which people live, work or do things - เหตุการณ์, สภาพการ, สถานการณ์
  • contain: to store or hold something - บรรจุ
  • contract: an official written agreement - สัญญา
  • conversation (noun): when two or more people are talking about something - การสนทนา, การพูดคุย
  • count as: be included with something; to be regarded as -
  • crew members (noun): the people who work on a ship, aircraft, television programme, etc. - กลุ่มคนที่ทำงานร่วมกัน, ลูกเรือ
  • decent: of a good enough standard or quality - เหมาะสม
  • deep-sea port: a very deep port where big ships can park and load and unload goods -
  • dizzy: feeling as if everything is turning round and being unable to balance and about to fall down - เวียนศีรษะ
  • document: a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type  - เอกสาร
  • edge (noun): the outside limit of an object, a surface or an area; the part furthest from the centre - ริม, ขอบ
  • escape (verb): to get away from a place; to leave a place where you are in danger - หนี
  • eventually: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด
  • experience (verb): to have something happen to you or to live through some event - ประสบ
  • exploitation: unfair treatment of someone, or the use of a situation in a way that is wrong - การใช้หาประโยชน์อย่างไม่ถูกต้อง
  • extend: to make a period of time longer - ขยายออกไป
  • force (noun): making someone do something that they don't want to do - การบังคับ
  • forge: to make illegal copies of something valuable, especially in order to earn money - ปลอมแปลง
  • foundation: an organisation that provides money for things such as medical research or for a charity - มูลนิธิ
  • hell: in some religions, the place where some people are believed to go after death to be punished forever for the bad things they have done during their lives - นรก
  • identity: who or what somebody/something is - ชื่อ เอกลักษณ์
  • illegal: against the law - ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
  • immigrant: a person who has come to a different country in order to live there permanently - ผู้อพยพ, คนย้ายถิ่น
  • inspect: to look at something carefully - ตรวจสอบ, ตรวจสอบอย่างละเอียด
  • intended: planned; wanted to happen - ที่ได้วางแผนไว้ ที่ตั้งใจให้เกิดขึ้น
  • introduce (verb): to present a new person or thing to another person who does not know them yet - แนะนำตัว, แนะนำให้รู้จักกัน
  • labour: people whose job involves hard physical work that is not skilled, especially work that is done outdoors - กรรมกร, ผู้ใช้แรงงาน
  • mainland: a large mass of land that forms the main part of a country but does not include any islands belonging to the country - แผ่นดินใหญ่
  • moment: a very short period of time; a particular time or occasion - ชั่วขณะ, โอกาสสำคัญ
  • monkhood: the fact of being a monk - เพศพระภิกษุ, เพศบรรพชิต, ความเป็นพระ
  • naïve: believing things too easily or tending to trust others too much - อ่อนหัด ไร้เดียงสา
  • network: a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. - เครือข่าย
  • offer: an act of saying that you are willing to do something for somebody or give something to somebody - เสนอเพื่อให้พิจารณา
  • official: connected with the job of somebody who is in a position of authority - ที่เป็นทางการ
  • ordain: to officially make someone a monk or priest in a religious ceremony - บวช อุปสมบท
  • painful (adj): causing you pain - เจ็บปวด, เจ็บแสบ
  • period: a length of time in the life of a particular person or in the history of a particular country - ยุค, ช่วง, กาล
  • persuade: to make someone agree to do something by giving them reasons why they should - โน้มน้าวใจ เกลี้ยกล่อม
  • plight: an unpleasant condition, especially a serious, sad or difficult one - สภาพเลวร้าย
  • prevent (verb): to stop somebody from doing something; to stop something from happening - ขัดขวาง, ป้องกัน, กัน, กีดขวาง
  • prey: to be a victim of something - เหยื่อ
  • promise (verb): to say that you will do something for sure; to commit that you'll do something for certain - สัญญา
  • recurrence: something that happens again - การเกิดขึ้นอีก,การกลับมาอีก
  • reject: to not accept something - ปฏิเสธ ไม่ยอมรับ
  • relative: a member of your family - ญาติพี่น้อง
  • replace: to change from one thing to another - แทน
  • request: an act of asking for something in a formal or polite way - การขอร้อง
  • rescue: saving a person or animal from a dangerous or unpleasant situation - การช่วยชีวิต
  • resident: a person who lives in a particular area - ผู้ที่อาศัยในท้องที่
  • rest: relax, take it easy, sleep - พัก, ผ่อนคลาย
  • reunite: to bring together again - รวมตัวกันใหม่, รวมกันใหม่
  • scheme: a plan for achieving something, especially something illegal or dishonest - แผนการ (ที่มีท่าว่าจะผิดกฎหมาย)
  • secret: things that you do not tell other people - ความลับ
  • settle debt: pay back money you borrowed to lender -
  • share: tell other people about something that you know -
  • sign a contract (verb): agree to do something in exchange for something such as money - เซ็นสัญญา
  • similar: like somebody/something but not exactly the same - คล้ายกัน
  • sip (noun): a very small amount of a drink that you take into your mouth - การจิบ,การดื่มทีละนิด
  • skipper: the captain or manager of a team - ผู้นำทีม
  • staff: workers employed by a person or organisation considered as a group - คณะผู้ทำงาน, คนงาน
  • stranger: a person that you do not know - คนแปลกหน้า
  • strive: to try very hard to do something or to make something happen, especially for a long time or against difficulties - พยายามอย่างหนัก
  • suffer: to experience something very unpleasant or painful - ประสบ
  • take refuge: to go to a place which provides protection or shelter from danger or trouble - ลี้ภัย
  • tears (noun): drops of water that come from your eyes when you cry or when something (dust, gas, etc.) has entered your eyes - น้ำตา
  • trawler (noun): a boat used for fishing by pulling a large net through the water - เรืออวนลาก
  • unbearable: too painful or unpleasant for you to continue to experience - ซึ่งไม่สามารถทนได้, ซึ่งทนไม่ไหว, ซึ่งเหลืออด
  • unconscious : in a sleeplike condition, usually from an illness or injury - หมดสติ
  • unfortunately: making you sad or disappointed, or getting you into a difficult position - เป็นที่น่าเสียดาย
  • unwilling: not wanting to do something and refusing to do it - ไม่เต็มใจ, ไม่สมัครใจ
  • verbally: using words - ทางคำพูด
  • victim: someone who has been affected by a bad situation, such as a disaster, illness or an accident - เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
  • vow: to make a formal and serious promise to do something or to promise what you say is true - สาบาน, ปฏิญาณ
  • wage: an amount of money that you earn for working, usually according to how many hours or days you work each week or month - ค่าจ้าง
  • wake up (verb): (past "woke up) to stop sleeping - ตื่น
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