WINNER, Seafood Champion Awards for Advocacy
Patima Tungpuchayakul has emerged as the key person behind attempts to end slavery at sea in South-East Asia. She is also deeply involved with the concerted effort to provide support and protection for Thai and migrant workers. Respected for her courage and determination, Patima’s work proved of critical importance when the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN) rescued about 3,000 captive and stranded fishermen from isolated Indonesian islands in 2014.
Patima created LPN in Thailand in 2004 with Sompong Srakaew. Her interest in human rights began in 1996 after graduation from Mahasarakham University, when she realized that the owners of factories near her home north of Bangkok were abusing migrant workers, especially women and children.
In more than two decades as an activist, Patima has helped to create awareness of chronic rights breaches and worked with reformers to build understanding and improve the lives of migrant workers and the laws governing their employment. She remains a dedicated innovator and recognizes that much more reform work still needs to be done in the region, on land and sea. Between August 2014 and October 2016 Patima Tungpuchayakul rescued 3,000 trafficked fish workers stranded on remote islands in Indonesian waters by the Thai fishing industry.
How well does this nominee and his or her work demonstrate the qualities of the category?
As co-founder of the Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN), Patima and her husband Sompong Srakaew run a program for migrant workers in the fishing industry in Thailand’s largest seafood processing center, Samut Sakhon. The programs help migrant workers and their children to gain legal status to be eligible for minimum pay rates, medical and school benefits, and to overcome recruitment debt.
In what ways has this nominee positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?
Workers in LPN programs had long spoken about men trafficked by the fishing industry who had never returned. Research by LPN pinpointed Benjina, Ambon and other port towns in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. Having no funds or diplomatic advantages, Patima coordinated and executed fact finding trips to the region and found men who had been trafficked, some who were literally chained and trapped in cages on these islands. These men had not received salaries for years, and faced violence and coercion. Patima’s team provided emergency services including food, clothing, and acute medical care. She devised a rescue plan and over seven trips brought 3000 men safely home to Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.
In what way do you feel this nominee’s story could inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?
Social abuses have become the dominant issue for sustainability in the industry. Patima’s work is indicative of the courage, commitment, and dedication required to address this issue.
How would the work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?
Without a doubt, the story is inspiring and serves as a model for others. Most importantly, this award would recognize the incredible work that these frontline groups and courageous leaders do on the ground and on the water. This work is often under recognized in the world of big business, big NGOs, and big funders.