Trang fishing kingpin gets 14 years for trafficking
By Methee Muangkaew for Bangkok Post on 17 March 2017,
TRANG: The former chairman of the Trang Fishing Association and five other defendants were sentenced on Friday to 14 years behind bars for human trafficking.
The Trang Provincial Court handed down the ruling against Sompol Jirotemontree and his co-defendants for using slave labour and unauthorised possession of firearms, among other charges. The court also opposed bail for them.
One of those jailed was Somjit Srisawang, who was one of the suppliers of illegal labourers from Myanmar to Sompol’s business. Another was Prawit Limsai, the skipper of the Prawit Fishing 9 trawler.
Four other defendants were released because there was insufficient evidence to implicate them, the court said.
Sompol, better known in Trang as Ko Nung, also operates the Poka Sathaporn fish market in Kantang district. He was also chairman of the police committee at Kantang police station, and was known to be highly influential locally.
He and others were arrested during a joint operation on Nov 7, 2015 to crack down on human trafficking.
The clampdown was part of a nationwide campaign after Thailand was yellow-carded by the European Union for not doing enough to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
EU authorities continue to closely monitor Thailand and conduct periodic reviews of progress in areas such as trawler registry and labour rights. The country could face trade sanctions if the EU determines that conditions are not improving.
The 2015 raid that ensnared Sompol involved 11 onshore and offshore targets in Kantang district. Three skippers were apprehended on their trawlers at sea.
The action followed efforts by the Labour Ministry and an NGO to help forced labourers from Myanmar working on fishing boats in the province. The workers’ testimony was used to obtain the warrants that led to the arrests.