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Thai court acquits pair accused of trafficking

Migrant workers repair a net on a thai fishing boat in Thailand's Rayong province. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP
Migrant workers repair a net on a Thai fishing boat in Thailand's Rayong province. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

Thai court acquits pair accused of trafficking

Human rights observers criticised on Friday last week’s decision by a Thai provincial court to acquit two defendants in a human trafficking case involving 11 Cambodians rescued from a fishing boat early last year.

The provincial court of Ranong on Thursday acquitted defendants Ruengchai Pewngam, captain of the boat, and Somchai Jettanapornsamran, owner of the fish market in the region, of all charges, and ruled that the victims “were aware that they were going to work on board a fishing boat”, according to a release by the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF).

The court ruled that the fishermen could have resisted their alleged captors when the ship encountered Thai authorities, despite not speaking any Thai, according to the release. HRDF said it also justified harsh treatment by the captain towards the workers because of the men’s lack of professional experience.

Kanchana Akarachart, HRDF’s Anti-Labour Trafficking Project Assistant, said the verdict could be “a step back undermining the Thai government’s concerted efforts” to improve conditions on fishing boats.

Kim Chenda, chief of the National Police’s office of anti-human trafficking, said the agency is currently collecting information on a broker in Cambodia connected to this case.

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