A Burmese crew supervisor on a fishing vessel was sentenced to serve two years imprisonment after the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and overturned a previous verdict allowing for the man’s release.
Human trafficking and forced labor cases have been prevalent off the coast of Thailand for several years, according to a studyby International Justice Mission and Issara Institute.
In this recent case a crew supervisor on a fishing vessel physically assaulted his own Burmese crew member, Win Oo*, with a foot-long metal spike used for mending nets. Win Oo was hospitalized, leaving his wife and two children with no one to provide for them while he recovered.
IJM Thailand partnered with the Royal Thai Police’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Task Force to investigate the case. While it was not determined to be a trafficking case, the suspect was charged with forcing the victim to work against his will and violently assaulting him.
The suspect pled guilty, resulting in a sentence of 15 days for forced labor and one year in prison for physical assault. However, because this was a first offense, and because the crew supervisor falsely claimed he had already paid compensation to the victim, the judge released him on probation with no imprisonment required. He was free to go.
But the IJM lawyer and public prosecutor were determined to appeal the verdict that allowed a violent man to walk free. On February 18, 2020, the appeal court overturned the initial decision, ruling that the perpetrator would serve two years without parole.
“We thought the first verdict was the end of it. But we decided to move on and hold to belief that pursuing God’s justice would shed light on this”, said Chantanee Sirisahwatthada, an IJM Thailand lawyer. “Now we all know that there is light at the end of that dark tunnel.”
“The judge‘s decision sends a message that the voices of victims are being heard, and those who profit from abusing others will be held accountable,” said Andrew Wasuwongse, Field Office Director, IJM Bangkok.
Win Oo has since recovered enough to return to his hometown in Southern Myanmar and is now living peacefully with his family, working on a farm.