Many of the men who end up as slaves or semi-slaves on fishing fleets in international waters have been conned into the situation by unscrupulous employment agencies who are paid handsomely to provide fishing boats with crew members.
With his new movie ”Buoyancy”, director Rodd Rathjen hopes to warn vulnerable individuals and help them stay away from the clutches of these predatory agencies.
The film Buoyancy tells the story of a Chakra, Cambodian boy enslaved on a Thai fishing trawler. Born in rural Cambodia, Chakra hopes to escape poverty but is sold by a broker and kept as a slave on a fishing boat.
Shot in Cambodia and using both the Khmer and Thai languages, the movie will hopefully be able to warn those who need it the most.
“I think this movie is important because it portrays the real lives of Cambodians,” says Sarm Heng, a 16-year-old Cambodian actor who played the role of Chakra. “My reason for acting in this movie is to help children of the next generations… so that other boys and girls don’t get tricked or trapped and have to suffer as Chakra did.”
Screenings in remote villages
“Buoyancy” had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it won a prize.
Rathjen is now organising a series of screenings of this film in remote Cambodian villages where the villagers might otherwise not get a chance to watch it.
“It can hopefully educate them about what is at stake if they do decide to migrate to Thailand,” says Rathjen. “Despite how desperate they were for work, it’s obviously not worth losing their lives or being exposed to that level of trauma.”
A multi-billion industry
The Thai seafood industry is one of the world´s largest and it is worth billions of dollars per year. Recently, Thailand has received a lot of criticism for failing to effectively address issues with slavery and slave-like conditions within the industry, especially human rights violations where the victims are migrant workers from nearby countries such as Vietnam, Burma and Cambodia.
In response, Thai authorities have launched a new set of measures to crack down on these harmful operations. Among other things, the use of underage workers on fishing boats has been banned and Thai authorities now require fishermen to be given written labour contracts.