Thai court sentences six in seafood industry for migrant worker trafficking
A provincial court in Thailand has sentenced six people to lengthy prison terms for illegally trafficking migrant workers onto fishing vessels.
The defendants, who were each given 14-year prison sentences, include Sompon Jirotemontree, the former chairman of the Trang Fishing Association and owner of Boonlarp Fishing L.P., and Somjit Srisawang, who allegedly supplied Sompon’s business with trafficked workers from Myanmar. Additionally, Boonlarp Fishing was fined THB 600,000, while THB 1.9 million was awarded as compensation to victims of the trafficking. Four other defendants were released, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation, which tracked the case and issued a press release praising the verdict and sentences.
“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,” EJF Executive Director Steve Trent said. “Coming after a decision by the Ranong Provincial Court in February to acquit two people of their trafficking and abuse charges, this ruling is an important precedent for future human trafficking cases in Thailand and provides hope for many others still awaiting justice.”
In March 2013, EJF launched an investigation into human trafficking on Thai fishing vessels. Over three years, the organization said it uncovered a “sophisticated system of trafficking, slavery, abuse and exploitation on-board vessels in the southern Thai port.” EJF detailed its findings in the reports Sold to the Sea and Thailand Seafood Slaves.
After EJF gave evidence of forced labor and exploitation to Thai authorities, Sompon, Somjit and six others were arrested on 7 November, 2015. That same day, a joint operation in Kantang raided onshore and offshore offices and boats of Boonlarp Fishing Limited Partnership.
“The prosecution of those people controlling and benefiting from human trafficking, slavery and exploitation has been, and continues to be, an essential tool in the fight against the abuses taking place at sea,” Trent said. “By taking definitive action against these individuals and organizations, Thai authorities will help to deter others from using forced and slave labor, and protect the lives of thousands of vulnerable workers.”