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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fishermen return to families after years of forced labour

Fishermen return to families after years of forced labour

trafficked fishermen vireak mai
Yon Yom, a 20-year-old trafficking victim, is reunited with his family after returning from Indonesia. He had been forced to work in slave-like conditions on a Thai fishing vessel. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Eight fishermen returned to Cambodia from Indonesia on Wednesday after nearly five years of forced labour on a Thai fishing boat.

Leaving at different times with the aid of job brokers − some in 2008, others a year later − the men wound up on the same boat. The labour was gruelling.

“I was ordered to work on the boat day and night. No free time at all and no wage to send home. And I did not have enough food. Four years for me was like a hundred years on the boat,” said Va Chantha, 33, who lives in Kampong Thom province.

Another fisherman, Im Sokuntea, 38, from Takeo province, said that after his experience he wants to warn Cambodians offered work on fishing boats by brokers to be wary because the job is too perilous.

He said the men escaped when the boat docked in Indonesia, and, with the help of the Cambodian Embassy and local authorities, were repatriated. But not all made the escape.

“There are so many Khmer out there shouting for help,” he said.

Huy Pichsovann, program officer at the Community Legal Education Center, said that after they arrived at airport, they were sent to the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department in the Ministry of Interior for questioning in an attempt to track down the brokers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at david.sen@phnompenhpost.com

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