Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hapless sailor ekes out life in police station

Whether you believe in destiny or not, a 30-year-old Aung Soe, a well-built youth born in Burma, grown up in Thailand and now lives at Kochi Police Harbour Station for the past 17 months, believes in it.
Though he was rescued by Indian Navy during an anti-piracy operation, now Aung Soe leads a prisoner’s life without committing any crime at Kochi Police Harbour Station for the past 17 months.
With both Burma and Thailand showing reluctance to take back Aung Soe into their territories citing identity problem, India-based Sailors' helpline has taken up his cause and produced a documentary on his travails to make to world listen to his appeal for freedom.
The 15-minute documentary titled ‘Man without a Nation', portraying the travails of Aung Soe, who has been living in the Kochi Police Harbour Station for the last 17 months without valid papers, was released on May 5 in Chennai.
Purnendu Misra, Principal Officer, Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) released the documentary and Capt K Vivekanand, president, Merchant Navy Officers Association, Chennai, received the first copy.
The documentary was produced jointly by Sailors' helpline co-ordinator V. Manoj Joy and International Transport Workers Federation Inspector K. Sreekumar. The documentary, which was produced primarily to lend a voice to Aung soe in international foras, was directed by Prasanth Kanathur.
When Aung Soe left on a deep sea fishing vessel FV Prantalay 12 for a tuna catch along with two-dozen colleagues off African nation Djibouti, tucked between dreaded nations like Eritrea and Somalia, he never would have imagined he would be spending his days in Indian Territory someday.
Speaking to Sagar Sandesh,  Manoj Joy said,  “In the backdrop of forced prisoner life for Aung Soe at Kochi Harbour Police Station, we want some solution to emerge, so that he can return to his native country soon.”
To make his voice heard globally, we produced the documentary and we are hoping that something will happen soon, Joy added.
Besides, the documentary was not alone for Aung Soe, as several such sailors are being kept in captivity across the globe and no one there to take up their cause, he further said.
 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, Joy appealed.
To make serious effort s to bring freedom to Aung Soe, the producers has planned to send it to different people across the world including the Burmese peace icon Aung San Suu Kyi and Thailand King, which could  lead to a fruitful result.
Speaking to Sagar Sandesh, International Transport Workers Federation Inspector K. Sreekumar, said, “Both the Thailand as well as Burmese authorities are not willing to take him back due to want of identity. We have established a contact with Thailand-based human rights NGO and they are now verifying the facts.”
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, he added.
It all started when the fishing vessel Prantalay 12, in which Aung Soe was travelling to Dijbouti, was captured by Somali pirates in April 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 Indian Navy Ship Krishna was patrolling Indian waters after inputs of pirates’ movement, Soe jumped into the sea from Prantalay 12 to get himself out of pirates’ hands.
The naval patrolling vessel chased his fishing boat, as the fishing vessel was acting as pirate’s mother vessel and could be sunk if any untoward incident happens near the area.
The Indian Navy then rescued  Aung Soe from mid-sea and handed him over to the Kochi Harbour police as they were unable to establish his nationality/identity.
Since then, Aung Soe lives in Kochi Harbour Police station and looked after by the police personnel.
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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