14 fishermen to testify against human traffickers in Indonesia

Fishermen repatriated from Indonesia’s Ambon Island gather at a government office in Yangon to collect their salaries in September 2015. Photo: Banya
Fishermen repatriated from Indonesia’s Ambon Island gather at a government office in Yangon to collect their salaries in September 2015. Photo: Banya

FOURTEEN Myanmar fishermen will travel to Indonesia this month to testify in court against a fishing company that is on trial for committing human trafficking.
The Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), an Indonesian NGO, will take the Silver Sean fishing company, also based in Indonesia, to court for trafficking Myanmar fishermen in an attempt to secure salaries and compensation for the victims.
LPSK met with 22 trafficked fishermen in Myanmar during a visit in September and reached agreement in principal with Myanmar authorities to send 14 fishermen who were involved in the case to Indonesia, Police Col Khin Maung Hla told The Global New Light of Myanmar yesterday.
“More than 500 fishermen who returned from Benjina about four to five months ago did not receive salaries from their companies because the Myanmar authorities and Indonesian authorities had to give priority to repatriate them to Myanmar as soon as possible due to unsufficient accommodation and food for them,” he added.
“However, the two countries will cooperate further to resolve the issues of salary and grievances of the remaining Myanmar fishermen,” the police colonel said.
He added that 176 of the more than 300 Myanmar fishermen stranded on Indonesia’s Ambon Island returned to Myanmar in September and received their salaries from their employers; they were repatriated only after compensation disputes between employers and workers were resolved by Myanmar and Indonesian authorities.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar embassy in Indonesia has offered its assistance to more than 443 fishermen who returned home from Benjina in early June in filing lawsuits against their former employers in an attempt to resolve the salary disputes between the fishermen and the Benjina Company.
Officials from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia will hold talks for the second time on the Indonesian island of Bali on 20 and 21 October in order to resolve the human trafficking issue.
Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia held the first meeting on the issue in Phuket, Thailand, in July 2015, focusing on the issue of trafficked fishermen.
During its visit to Myanmar, LPSK expressed its readiness to cooperate with Myanmar to resolve the human trafficking case in Benjina, Aru Island, Maluku Province.
The LPSK has reported on the developments in the Benjina slavery case to Myanmar authorities, including the trial schedule and the protection of the witnesses from Myanmar.
During the meeting with the LPSK, Myanmar authorities voiced their support for the witnesses testifying in court.
The Myanmar Police Force or other relevant ministries can conduct further investigations, the authorities said.
Earlier this year, the Associated Press released a video titled “Was Your Seafood Caught by Slaves?” that showed several prisons and tombs believed to be a cemetery for Myanmar crew members of fishing ships in Benjina. Indonesian police investigations revealed human trafficking in Benjina, arresting eight suspects in connection with the case, of whom five were identified as Thai nationals and three as Indonesian.
More than 130 Myanmar fishermen who have been stranded in Indonesia’s Ambon, Tanjunpinan and Meulaboh islands will be able to return home in October. — GNLM

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