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February 28, 2018

odyssey finally over — 39 stranded fishermen return from Indonesia

Fishermen arrive at Yangon International Airport.
Fishermen arrive at Yangon International Airport.

OUT of more than 130 Myanmar fishermen who have been stranded in Indonesia’s Ambon, Tanjunpinan and Meulaboh islands, 39 from Ambon Island returned to Myanmar yesterday.
“The fishermen arrived back today after being moved from Thai fishing boats to Indonesian fishing boats. We will conduct an investigation to know whether they were trafficked or not. If so, we will expose the truth and take action against trafficking,” said Police Maj Ye Win Aung.
The fishermen returned to Myanmar with the assistance of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Myanmar embassy in Indonesia and Myanmar’s immigration department.
The remaining fishermen will be able to return home this month, according to a police source.
Officials from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia will hold a second round of talks in Bali, Indonesia, on 20 and 21 October in an effort to resolve the region’s human trafficking issues.
Several Myanmar fishermen who came back from Indonesia over the last few months will testify at a trial against one fishing company that is accused of committing human trafficking.
Indonesia’s Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) will take the Silver Sean fishing company to court for trafficking Myanmar fishermen in an attempt to get salaries and compensation for the victims.
LPSK met with 22 trafficked fishermen in Myanmar during its visit to the country in September and reached an agreement in principal with Myanmar authorities to send 14 fishermen involved in the case to Indonesia for the trial, said Police Col Khin Maung Hla to The Global New Light of Myanmar.
“Actually, more than 500 fishermen from who came back 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 repatriating them to Myanmar as quickly as possible due to insufficient accommodations and food for them,” he added.
“However, the two countries will cooperate further to resolve the issues of salaries and the grievances of the remaining Myanmar fishermen,” Police Col Khin Maung Hla said.
He added that 176 fishermen out of more than 300 Myanmar fishermen stranded on Indonesia’s Ambon Island returned to Myanmar in September and received salaries from their companies only after disputes between the 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 Indonesia’s Benjina Island in early June by filing a lawsuit against the Benjina Company in an attempt to secure compensation for the fishermen.
Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia held their first meeting on the issue of human trafficking in Phuket, Thailand, in July 2015, focusing the issue of trafficked fishermen.
During its visit to Myanmar, the LPSK expressed its readiness to cooperate with Myanmar to resolve the human trafficking cases in Benjina.
The LPSK has kept Myanmar authorities informed about the developments in the Benjina slavery case, providing updates on the trial schedule and the protection of the witnesses from Myanmar.


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