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‘Sickening’ Film on Plight of Burmese Migrant Fishermen


By THE IRRAWADDY NOVEMBER, 2008 - VOLUME 16 NO.11


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A documentary film showing how Burmese seamen aboard Thai fishing boats are abused, beaten and even murdered is now available for viewing on the Internet.

The 10-minute film, titled “Abandoned, not Forgotten,” was released on the official Web site of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF), whose General Secretary, David Cockcroft, described it as “a sometimes sickening but very necessary addition to the evidence that many Burmese citizens forced to flee their country are being appallingly treated.”

Burmese fishermen dock in Ranong, Thailand.
(Photo: The Irrawaddy)
In one scene, an ex-fisherman describes how a cook beat a young Burmese crew member with an iron bar. “The skipper asked if the guy was dead or not. I told him: ‘He hasn’t died yet, leave him alone, I’ll look after him.’ The guy was hit again on the back of his head and his brains spilled out. He took an hour to die.”

The ex-fisherman concluded: “I think our Burmese boatman die like dogs and pigs.”

Cockroft said: “This is a 21st century scandal, and everyone involved—including those who wittingly or not buy or sell fish products tainted by this horrible exploitation—must examine their consciences and act.”

According to the London-based ITWF, 250,000 Burmese migrant fishermen and women work in Thailand’s fishing industry, at sea and in fish-processing factories. Only 70,000 are legally registered. With little or no legal status or protection, many face brutality and near slavery.

“Abandoned, not Forgotten” can be viewed on the Web site www.itfglobal.org/fisheries/film.cfm or on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deCo_ZBSk-U

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