AMBON, Indonesia – Moe Hein is about 20 years old, and his fellow fishermen believe he had been enslaved for the past four years. The mentally disabled Myanmar man is among more than 2,000 rescued from forced labor on fishing boats following reporting by The Associated Press and an Indonesian government investigation.
The AP interviewed another fisherman, Myo Zaw Aung, who spoke about Moe Hein and other people with disabilities who were forced to work. Here are excerpts from his interview, translated from Burmese.
"According to (Moe Hein), he is from Kaw Thaung, but we don't know exactly. He didn't even remember the boat he was working for. We had to take him to the fishing boats and let him point out which boat it was.
"The fishing company or boats have been forcing even the mentally disabled people on the boat to work constantly. ... They were never paid as normal people. They were paid a little bit of money here and there. Now we want to stand as witnesses for them to claim their wages. ...
"We want them to go back to our country together with us. What would they do if they were left here? ... They cannot survive here.
"We are not satisfied with what the company is doing to them but we don't have any power. We are also slaves. We are angry at the agents from Thailand who sold them on the boat, and also angry at the captains who kept them to work all the time even they knew that they were mentally disabled."