Burmese Slave Fishermen

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These are Burmese fishermen, the last dozen or so of the thousands who were enslaved by unscrupulous Thai fishing boat owners and forced to work 18-20 hours a day for a promised monthly pay that they never saw.  Fear and intimidation by crew supervisors kept them working and from running away. Beatings with iron bars or stingray tails, burns with scalding motor oil, and in some extreme cases, murder were witnessed or experienced first hand by most of these men.  In 2015 an investigation by The Associated Press, led Indonesia, in whose waters most of the slavery was happening to halt commercial fishing activities.  Hundreds of commercial fishing boats anchored in ports around Eastern Indonesia and there the scale of the slave trade was revealed. Thousands of men poured off the boats with horrific tales which thanks to the Indonesian government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the AP can now no longer be ignored.

I met these men while working with IOM which has been helping the Indonesian government care for the fishermen while they are waiting for government forced negotiations over their pay to conclude. But many of their colleagues left without any pay at all because they simply wanted to go home, and those that waited often had to accept a mere pittance for their years at sea.

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