Thai fishing vessels. (Photo: EJF)
EJF welcomes Thai fishing worker traffickers’ punishement
Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 02:20 (GMT + 9)
The non-government organisation Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) expressed satisfaction about the news that Thailand’s Trang Provincial Court has sentenced six defendants to 14 years behind bars for the human trafficking of migrant workers onto fishing vessels.
“The court’s decision is a vital step towards getting justice for the victims of the unspeakable human rights abuses witnessed within Thailand’s fishing sector,” pointed out Steve Trent, EJF Executive Director.
In his view, the prosecution of those people controlling and benefiting from human trafficking, slavery and exploitation has been an essential tool in the fight against the abuses taking place at sea.
“By taking definitive action against these individuals and organizations, Thai authorities will help to deter others from using forced and slave labour, and protect the lives of thousands of vulnerable workers,” Trent added.
The six defendants sentenced in Trang included the former chairman of the Trang Fishing Association and owner of Boonlarp Fishing L.P. Sompon Jirotemontree, who ran his fishing vessels using forced and slave labour, and Somjit Srisawang, who helped supply Sompon’s business with trafficked labourers from Myanmar.
Sompon, Somjit and six others were arrested in November 2015 after EJF shared a detailed dossier of evidence of forced labour and exploitation with Thai authorities, including the testimonies of trafficked workers who had managed to escape their boats.
The Trang court’s verdict is the culmination of EJF’s three-year investigation into the use of slavery in Kantang’s seafood industry.
In March 2013, the NGO carried out its first investigation into trafficked and forced labour on-board Thai fishing vessels in Kantang, detailed in the report Sold to the Sea.
In EJF’s 2015 follow-up Thailand Seafood Slaves it uncovered a sophisticated system of trafficking, slavery, abuse and exploitation on-board vessels in the southern Thai port.
As well as the 14 year sentences, the Boonlarp Fishing Company L.P. was also given a TBH 600,000 (USD 17, 252) fine, while the victims were awarded TBH 1.9 million (USD 54,000) compensation. Four other defendants were released.
EJF stated it continues to work across Thailand and the wider region to combat the human rights abuses in the fishing industry, as well as the overfishing and pirate fishing practices that drive them.
Thailand's seafood industry is worth over USD 5.5 billion, employing more than 800,000 people. Over 90 per cent of workers on Thailand’s fishing boats are migrants.
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