Forty-seven fishermen died at sea off the coast of Mon State’s Ye Township in 2017, topping 2016’s figure by two, according to police data. Many of these deaths were murders or the result of bullying.
“Most of the cases happened while they were drinking after a long day’s work. As they are in an enclosed working space, murder cases happen,” Ye Township police chief Khin Nyo, told the Myanmar Times. “In some cases, fishermen are bullied by their supervisors.”
He also said that in most of these cases, no one has been brought to justice.
Zaw Min Oo, the spokesman for the township’s Department of Fisheries, said fishermen are more prone to murder while at sea because of the arduous stretches of time they spend there and because of the pressure to catch large numbers of fish. Arguments and misunderstandings can result in killing, he said.
In one case in late December, a fisherman named Phyo Ko Ko was found drifting at sea by passing sailors, who brought him to a hospital, where he remained in a coma for a week. When he awoke, he recounted that he swam to escape his supervisor, who beat him twice every day. This was the second time he had tried to escape. After his first attempt, his supervisor caught him and starved him for four days.
The owner of the boat Phyo Ko Ko worked on is paying his hospital bills, but local officials say owners need to intervene earlier to prevent abuse from beginning. They also encourage victims of bullying to report the issue early on.
Local resident Hla Aye said fishermen should protect each other from bullying, adding: “[They are facing] a kind of human trafficking.”
Fishing is one of the main industries in Ye Township, where most residents are members of the Mon ethnic minority.