23 Ye Township fisherman trafficked and forced to work for more than 1 year without pay

March 28, 2018

HURFOM: Fishermen in Ye Township are struggling to meet their daily livelihood needs after remaining unpaid for a year’s worth of work. Twenty-three fishermen accuse U Aung Kyaw Soe from Buttamyar Ward, A Bor Kyar Tan village, Ye Township, Mon State of refusing to pay salaries after forcing them to work under dangerous conditions that led to the deaths of several colleagues.

Photo Credit: Fisheries Federation Association (Mon State)

“From March/April 2017 to February/March 2018, we worked at sea for the whole year. We never landed. Some fishermen died of ill health as they were not allowed to land. We have had trouble feeding our families as we still haven’t gotten our payment, even after the fishing season ended,” said U Than Aye, the leader of the group of fishermen.

In their contract, it was agreed upon that their annual salary would be paid out in full at the end of the fishing season, but the owner refused to pay and had planned to coerce them into working another season at sea, according to the fishermen.

However, on March 11th 2018, U Than Aye and his fishermen flagged down a passing boat, asking for help. They managed to escape back to the shore safely, where they immediately sought out U Aung Kyaw Soe and demanded the salary due to them for the year’s work.

“I can’t give you your payment. I’d rather feed the police, than give you your money,” he told the assembled fishermen, according to U Than Aye.

After U Aung Kyaw Soe’s refusal to pay the fishermen, they went to the local Ye Township Labor Office and filed a report. The labor office agreed to facilitate negotiations between U Aung Kyaw Soe and the fishermen.

“In the presence of the Ye Labor Chief, U Aung Kyaw Soe said he would provide the payment on March 20th 2018. He also gave 10,000 kyat (US $0.01) to 15 fishermen who came to the labor office by motorbike to cover the transportation fee,” said Nay Yan Tun, one of the fisherman.

However, at 9:30 pm on March 18th, an officer from the Ye Police Station rang U Than Aye and said that the 23 fishermen had to report to the police station as they were being sued for setting U Aung Kyaw Soe’s fishing boat on fire.

I and 14 fishermen went to the police station the next morning. When we reached the station, the police station officer said: ‘One of you has to admit that they burned the boat. After the confession, you all will have your payment. But we have to unearth the truth of this case.’ We did not do anything, so no one confessed,” said U Than Aye.

The Ye Labor Office said it is difficult for them to negotiate about the fishermen’s payment with U Aung Kyaw Soe, as the fishermen are being sued by him on a criminal case regarding the destruction of his boat.

After subtracting prior payment and our monthly usage, we, 23 fishermen, should get more than 10 million kyat (US $7,468.50). The salary of each fisherman ranges from 150,000 (US $112.28) to 250,000 (US $187.14) kyat,” said U Thaung Htay, another of the fisherman.

On March 22nd all 23 fishermen filed a report with the Employment and Labor Law Office in Mawlamyine.

According local sources, last year there were 95 deaths of fishermen who had official fishing licenses and hundreds more deaths of fishermen working illegally. In the end, only five cases have received justice.

 

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