80 of them have been tricked into working there

More in the unofficial series on slavery around the world – slave labor on Thai fishing boats.

Akaradetch Seri had a fight with his girl friend one day and found himself homeless. He spent the night on a park bench where ever such a nice man approached him and offered him a place to stay.

The man mentioned he could stay at a friend’s house, what turned out to be a stark room inhabited by several others. The front door remained bolted, and Seri became worried when asked not to leave under any circumstances.

After several days, the men were taken to a port and loaded into a ship’s barren hull, then ferried to Indonesia and forced to board another vessel to work. Afraid, Seri asked to go back. He was told his passage had been paid for and only his backbreaking labor could buy his freedom.

For the next three years, Seri caught and sorted fish on a Thai-run deep-sea fishing vessel in Indonesian waters, earning a fraction of Thailand’s minimum wage.

And that’s how it’s done.

Thailand has overfished its own waters so it goes into other countries, which means the slaves are stuck on the boats for months or even years.

The conditions are horrific and not compensated for by decent pay, so nobody wants these jobs.

Increasingly, boat owners have turned to human traffickers to meet their staffing needs.

Over one third of polled fishing industry workers in Samut Sakhon province, a fishery hub, said they were trafficked into the industry, with 57 percent reporting conditions of forced labor, according to a 2012 study by the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP).

Long-haul fishing boats, which rarely return to shore, are especially prone to abusive conditions, with one in six surveyed workers on such vessels reporting they did not sign up for the job, according to a 2013 study by the International Labor Organization.

One former slave places the figure much higher. “Ask 100 men on a boat and 80 of them have been tricked into working there,” said Chairat Ratchapaksri, a 37-year-old Thai man who worked as a mechanic on a deep-sea vessel before his rescue in April from the remote Indonesian island of Benjina, following the publication of an Associated Press investigation into a massive Thai-run criminal syndicate operating in those waters.

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Sara Hucal wrote the piece.

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