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Enslaved fishermen to get help from ministry

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken measures to help rescue 14 Cambodians who have made desperate pleas for help to escape from a fishing boat they have been enslaved aboard for the past two years.

Families of the men told the Post yesterday that they had received phone calls on Sunday when the boat enslaving their loved ones, who disappeared two years ago after traveling to Thailand with a broker, briefly docked at an Indonesian island.

Yesterday, Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said he had acted on the information, ordering the Cambodian embassy in Jakarta to cooperate with Indonesian authorities and find the men.

“We will try our best to help them as soon as possible,” Koy Kuong said, adding that families of the men had been asked for detailed information, which was then forwarded to embassy officials in Indonesia.

Cambodian embassy officials in Jakarta were not available for comment.

Gnan Van, 33, said yesterday she was relieved the government was paying attention to the security of her husband Yean Phean and the other men.

“I am very thankful to the government officials who will intervene to help my husband and the other 13 men to return back home. I really want to be with my husband,” she said.

On Monday, the families of the 14 men from Trea commune in Kampong Thom province’s Stoung district filed a complaint to rights group Licahdo seeking help to rescue them.

The men have told their families members, some of whom said they warned them not to go, that they were being forced to work night and day without any salary.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Cambodian Legal Education Centre, said the government had to stop acting reactively to the problem and start focusing on issues such as low wages and the complicity of border officials in trafficking.

“The government has to look at job creation within Cambodia and then look at working conditions within the country. The wage condition should allow workers to be living above the poverty line,” he said.

WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE

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