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Director Wants Thai Seafood Slavery Film to Act as Warning in Cambodia

Screenshot shows actor Sarm Heng as rural Cambodian boy Chakra in the film, "Buoyancy." (Courtesy: Causeway Films)
Screenshot shows actor Sarm Heng as rural Cambodian boy Chakra in the film, "Buoyancy." (Courtesy: Causeway Films)

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.

Thailand has come under scrutiny in recent years after investigations found labor 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 labor 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 neighboring 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."