03/02/2015, 00.00
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Four Thai fishermen held captive by Somali pirates for five years are freed

by Weena Kowitwanij
A joint collaboration between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations. The fishermen: "It's like coming back to life after being dead”. Thai Prime Minister: "Entrepreneurs in the sector must cooperate with the government to stop this human trafficking."

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Four Thai fishermen are free again after five years of captivity in the hands of Somali pirates. The group landed at Suvarnnabhum on 28 February, where they were welcomed by family and Thai authorities. "This liberation - said the fishermen - it's like coming back to life after being dead".

The four men are Chan-narong Nawara, Thanakorn Kaewkumkong, Kosol Duangmakerd e Ton Wiyasing, captain of the FV Sea Hunter 12, boarded by pirates in 2010. After their capture, the four fishermen were used as cooks by Somali guerrillas.

Their release is the result of seven months of intense collaboration between the Thai Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Thai embassy in Kenya and the United Nations.

Captain Ton Wiyasing thanked the Thai people and the Ministry for making their release and their return home possible. 24 fishermen were employed on the ship. "Only five of us were Thai- said Ton - but one died shortly after our capture from an illness. Later, 15 were released, and there were only four of us. For the first year we lived in a cell aboard a pirate ship. When the boat sank, we were taken to Somalia, where we had the task of cooking for the pirates".

"Life in Somalia - said the man - it is very hard and the pirates are constantly moving for fear of being caught. We did not know our fate. We knew we could die at any moment. Every time there a pirate came to wake us up, we had to run and cook, in whatever condition we were in".

On the day of their return to Thailand, the fishermen had a one-hour interview with the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, before being visited by a doctor and allowed to go home. After the meeting, the Prime Minister issued a statement to the entrepreneurs who work in the fishing industry, inviting them to "reflect on the safety of fishermen and register your ships and each crew member, to help stop the problem of trafficking in people".

"If you fail to collaborate with the government - he added - the phenomenon will not stop. How can we be happy if our fellow citizens are living hard times in other lands? The four fishermen have asked their grandchildren if they remembered them, and the response of the little ones was 'no'. I feel their hurt at knowing that".


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