Director wants Thai seafood slavery film to act as warning in Cambodia

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 6 August 2019 14:15 GMT

A scene from 'Buoyancy', a film about a Cambodian boy trafficked into the seafood industry in Thailand. Photo courtesy: Rafael Winer/Causeway Films

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Shot in Cambodia in the Khmer and Thai languages, 'Buoyancy' follows the story of a Cambodian boy who sets off to escape poverty but later discovers he has been sold and trapped at sea

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The maker of a new film about a Cambodian boy enslaved on a Thai fishing trawler said on Tuesday he wants to use it to raise awareness and stop people from falling victim to traffickers.

"Buoyancy" director Rodd Rathjen is planning a series of screenings in remote Cambodian villages of the film, which shines on the plight of thousands of migrant workers trapped in slavery in the Thai seafood industry.

Shot in Cambodia in the Khmer and Thai languages, it follows the story of Chakra, a rural Cambodian boy who sets off to escape his family's poverty but later discovers he has been sold by a broker and trapped at sea.

"It can hopefully educate them about what is at stake if they do decide to migrate to Thailand," said Rathjen by phone from Australia, where the film will be screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Friday.

"Despite how desperate they were for work, it's obviously not worth losing their lives or being exposed to that level of trauma," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A scene from 'Buoyancy', a film about a Cambodian boy trafficked into the seafood industry in Thailand. Photo courtesy: Rafael Winer/Causeway Films

Thailand has come under scrutiny in recent years after investigations found labour abuses in its multibillion-dollar seafood sector, one of the world's largest.

In response, authorities have introduced a raft of measures to crack down on labour abuses, including banning the use of underage workers and requiring that fishermen are given contracts.

There are about 4.9 million migrants in Thailand, according to the United Nations. Most are from poorer neighbouring countries, including Myanmar and Cambodia, and work in sectors such as seafood and domestic work.

"Buoyancy" had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, when it won a prize.

"I think this movie is important because it portrays the real lives of Cambodians," said Sarm Heng, a 16-year-old Cambodian newcomer who played the lead role.

"My reason for acting in this movie is to help children of the next generations... so that other boys and girls don't get tricked or trapped and have to suffer like Chakra did."

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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