BANGKOK, THAILAND—Another player in a cross-border trafficking ring can no longer exploit vulnerable workers in Thailand, as law enforcement arrested a Thai boat owner accused of trafficking a Cambodian fisherman and subjecting him to forced labour conditions on his vessel.
The accused boat owner worked closely with Vanna, a Thailand-based broker who routinely sold Cambodian men to captains and owners of Thai fishing vessels. When Vanna offered Sitha* a job, he was told he’d receive regular wages. Months later, however, as his fishing vessel sailed in Malaysian waters, Sitha still hadn’t gotten paid. He was forced to work around the clock, yet he often didn’t receive any food and faced harsh abuse. His identity documents were witheld, and even when his boat pulled into a port, he wasn’t allowed to freely go onshore.
Sitha shared that, on many occasions, he asked to leave the vessel, but he was always denied—and, sometimes, he was beaten.
“I was feeling desperate,” he said, “and I was resolved to run for my life.”
When he saw a chance for escape, he took it. He was able to get in touch with IJM, who has been working with Thai authorities on the case ever since.
This trafficking ring—made up of a network of recruiters, brokers and employers stretching from Cambodian villages to Thailand’s ports—is infamous for exploiting hundreds of Cambodian workers like Sitha in Thailand’s fishing industry. A handful of players have already been brought to justice in Cambodia and Thailand. Vanna, the broker who sold Sitha onto the accused’s boat, has already been convicted for his crimes in both Cambodia and Thailand.
The investigation into Vanna’s crimes exposed even more Thailand-based players in the network, leading Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to open a new special case against the accused. DSI arrested him on 30 April 2021.
Back in his home community in Cambodia, when Sitha heard the news of the arrest, he said, “I was so happy,” and “so thankful” for those who are pursuing justice for survivors like him.
On his behalf, IJM has helped submit a request to the Thai government for compensation from the government’s Trafficking in Persons fund for the wages he should’ve earned, plus compensation for the abuse he suffered. Last year, the request was approved, and Sitha received 112,500 Baht (about A$4,600). This amount includes the the equivalent of the Thai minimum wage for every day that he endured forced labour.
Sitha and his family were overjoyed with tears upon receiving the money, which they planned to use to fix their home and purchase land to sustain their family.
*A pseudonym to protect the identity of this survivor.
Header image: Thai DSI agents arrest the boat owner.
To learn more about forced labour slavery in the Thai fishing industry, see IJM’s Not in the Same Boat report here.
You might also be interested in…
“Rescue of 4 women helps arrest trafficker on “most wanted” list”
HYDERABAD, India – In late April, IJM’s casework partner Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) assisted authorities in Telangana state to break up a major trafficking ring and rescue four young women who had been forced into domestic servitude. The four survivors—more than one of whom was just a teenager—had been lured from impoverished communities in
“Five Manila teens rescued from online sexual exploitation”
Manila, THE PHILIPPINES – Authorities have rescued four minors and a young adult and arrested two suspects in two separate operations against online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in Metro Manila. One of the operations was linked to an Australian online sex offender and conducted with assistance from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and IJM.
“First Arrest in IJM Child Sex Trafficking Project in Kenya”
Mombasa, KENYA – After five months of evading arrest, local police working with the Department of Children Services on the Kenyan coast recently secured the arrest of a man for sexually abusing and exploiting Saida* after luring her into a villa with a promise of assisting her with school fees. He has been charged under
“14 children rescued in the Philippines after AFP arrests Australian paedophile”
CAMARINES SUR, THE PHILIPPINES – On 7 May 2021, police rescued 14 children, including a 3-month old infant, from online sexual exploitation. The operation was the result of a referral from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which had arrested a 69-year-old Australian offender in March this year. Thanks to international collaboration through the Philippine Internet