Skip to content

Lwin’s story

February 20, 2018

Human trafficking, forced labour and other human rights abuses are rampant in the Thai fishing industry, whose labour force is largely made up of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Our Thailand hotspot aims to reduce the slavery in this industry, where poor working conditions and fraudulent recruitment processes place vulnerable migrants into abusive situations.

Supported by the Freedom Fund, a partnership of Thai and migrant-led NGOs is helping to increase migrants’ access to quality services, from rescue and shelter to legal support and reintegration. Community leaders in key ports, transit and processing areas have been trained to provide advice to those at risk. Many of our partners do community outreach beyond the fishing industry too, as migrants change jobs, and there are risks of exploitation across sectors.

One of our partners, the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) helped a victim of trafficking regain her freedom. Struggling with financial problems in her native Myanmar, 27-year-old Lwin decided to go to Thailand in search of economic opportunities. A broker agency smuggled her into Thailand illegally without identification documents, and she found employment at a rubber factory. Lwin eventually grew dissatisfied there, so she contacted the brokers and they moved her from job to job several times, travelling between several rubber plantations.

The last broker she spoke to sold her to a rubber plantation for $38. The conditions here were worse than her previous jobs, as she was forced to work long hours without pay. She was held at the plantation against her will. Because it was in a remote location, Lwin couldn’t escape without seeking assistance.

Fortunately, Lwin met a FED community leader in the area who connected her with FED’s Trafficking Hotline. She called the hotline and asked for help. The next day, FED conducted a rescue mission and liberated Lwin.

FED housed Lwin at a staff member’s home for one night and interviewed her extensively about her experiences. She also received counselling her about her legal rights and options. The following day, FED took her to a public shelter in Phang Nga province. She received housing and care at the shelter for 10 days; however, the shelter refused to deal with her situation as being a human trafficking case. The shelter officials said she was an undocumented migrant, not a victim of trafficking.

FED then negotiated with the authorities to arrange her safe return to Myanmar without being detained or arrested. FED later contacted. Lwin to make sure that she had arrived home safely. After eight months in abusive conditions, she was finally home with her child.

Lwin is safe now, but she did not receive her back wages, nor was she entitled to redress. Her story underscores how hard our frontline partners have to fight to ensure that individuals like Lwin are properly identified as victims of trafficking.

Pictured: Lwin
Photo credit: FED

Written by
The Freedom Fund