Enslaved Fisherman Shares Brutal Story

'It was like our lives were already over'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 17, 2015 6:41 PM CDT
Enslaved Fisherman Shares Brutal Story
Fisherman Myo Aung, left, chats with friends last week as he prepares to return home after five years enslaved as a forced laborer in Indonesia.   (Achmad Ibrahim)

A 25-year-old fisherman from Mynamar who found himself enslaved thousands of miles from home for five years was rescued—along with thousands of others like him—earlier this year. Now he's telling his story. "Who could stand working continuously without taking a rest?" asks Myo Aung, describing the brutal conditions of his forced labor in Indonesia. "Sometimes we have to sew the nets and we work half-asleep. We had to drink coffee a lot to keep ourselves awake." He goes on to describe being beat up for falling asleep while sick and feverish. He says workers who didn't follow orders were tortured.

"They are so reluctant to pay us money," Aung says. "Our lives were like slaves. They only think us as their servants." He says workers were never paid the right amount, instead receiving anywhere from $69 to $138 every three or four months. "We could buy nothing much with it," he says. "We would buy coffee and some clothes." Aung and more than 2,000 others were rescued after reporting by the AP and an investigation by Indonesian authorities. "For years since I got to Indonesia, there was no way back home," he says. "It was like our lives were already over." Last week, Aung was finally preparing for his return to Myanmar. (More Indonesia stories.)

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