Film on Thai activist who’s saved 4,000 sea slaves


Film producer Chutima Chutima Sidasathian with Patima Tungpuchayakul, right, from the Labor Protection Network, who has rescued thousands of former fishing boat slaves. PHOTO/YouTube

Patima Tungpuchayakul is the star of ‘Ghost Fleet,’ an acclaimed film set to debut in Southeast Asia

Singapore is set to become the first nation in Southeast Asia to publicly screen Ghost Fleet, an acclaimed documentary that reveals the full extent of slavery at sea throughout the region.

The hero of the documentary, Patima Tungpuchayakul, who is credited with rescuing more than 4,000 fishermen and aims to rescue hundreds more, is visiting the island nation with Chutima Sidasathian, the documentary’s field producer, herself a noted activist.

The two women, whose image has been used to promote Ghost Fleet at prestigious film festivals around the world, are now hoping that the Singapore screenings in September will lead to cinema screenings in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia and especially Thailand, which has long been seen as the hub of regional fishing and slavery.

Hundreds of rescued foreign fishermen, mostly from Myanmar and Thailand, are gathered by Indonesia's illegal fishing taskforce and Thai officials at an Indonesian fishing firm on April 3, 2015, in remote Benjina Island. Photo: AFP/ Ugeng Nugroho/ Ministry of Fishery
Hundreds of rescued fishermen, mostly from Myanmar and Thailand, gathered by Indonesia’s illegal fishing taskforce and Thai officials at a fishing firm in April 2015, in remote Benjina Island. PHOTO/AFP/Ugeng Nugroho/Ministry of Fishery

“People around the world have had the opportunity to see Ghost Fleet,” said Patima, whose exploits have been viewed in Telluride, Toronto and Berlin and at other prestigious film festivals. “But it’s in Southeast Asia that slavery and abuse is still happening and where the citizens of the countries involved need to be told the truth.”

In Ghost Fleet, cameras accompany Patima and Chutima and a rescue crew from Thailand on a voyage to remote parts of Indonesia, where they find fishermen who have either been deliberately stranded or who have jumped overboard to flee years of abuse.

Some rescued fishermen have spent five, 10 or even as long as 24 years on remote islands, without their families ever knowing they are still alive.

“The Thai government has reacted to slavery because it influences the country’s standing in the annual US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report,” Patima said. “And consumers around the world are beginning to ask whether their fish was caught by slaves.”

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