Monday, April 30, 2012

Thai fisherman faces a sea of problems

By N Anand

A documentary portraying the travails of a Thailand fisherman, who has been living in the Kochi Police Harbour Station for the last 17 months without valid papers, will be screened at Alliance Francaise on May 5.

The 15-minute documentary, titled ‘Man without a Nation', has been produced jointly by Sailors' helpline co-ordinator V. Manoj Joy and International Transport Workers Federation Inspector K. Sreekumar.

Aung Soe, the fisherman from Thailand, is the hero of the movie and narrates his woes in his own voice. Apinya Tajit, a seafarers' welfare worker from Bangkok, has done some translation work. The film has been directed by Prasanth Kanathur.

Trouble started for the Myanmar-born Soe, when the fishing vessel Prantalay 12, in which he was travelling to Dijbouti, was captured by Somali pirates on April 18, 2010 along with 76 other fishermen. For several months, Prantalay 12 was used as a mother ship to capture other vessels passing through the Indian waters.

When the INS Krishna was patrolling Indian waters, Mr. Soe jumped into the sea and sought help. Mr. Soe knew only Thai language and a few words in English. The Indian Navy was unable to establish his nationality/identity and handed him over to the Kochi Harbour police.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Joy said: “Thailand authorities are not willing to take him back as he does not hail from that country. Myanmar also disowned him for want of identity. Mr. Soe should be lucky to be in India as the Kerala Police is taking very good care of him and treating him like their younger brother.

“We want some solution to emerge. The refugee commissioner for the UN, the International Labour Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation and other international organisations and migrant workers forums should seriously devise policies to end this untold human misery of sailors.”

Mr. Soe does not talk much and hasn't learnt Malayalam. His only wish is to get back to Thailand to see his friends who might lend him a helping hand to start life afresh.

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