A Taiwanese woman accused of trafficking Cambodians to work in slave-like conditions on fishing boats off the African coast was charged yesterday with human trafficking by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
The woman, Lin Yu Shin, 53, was charged with the “unlawful removal [of persons] with purpose” and has been sent to Prey Sar prison while she awaits eventual sentencing, said Judge Leang Sam Nat, who questioned Lin for nearly four hours in court yesterday.
Lin, who runs Giant Ocean International Fishery Co Ltd, was arrested by police in Siem Reap on Friday morning.
Her arrest comes after police received more than 169 complaints that her company had trafficked Cambodians overseas, said Chiv Phally, deputy chief of the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection department at the Interior Ministry.
Phally added that police have been investigating the company since late 2011 and issued an arrest warrant for Lin in January.
It took time to arrest Lin, as she had changed her name and gone into hiding in Siem Reap, Phally added.
“After her firm was closed in 2011, she hid in Siem Reap and opened a souvenir shop at the night market,” he said. “But after we got information on her name change from Taiwanese police, we arrested her.”
Phally estimates that Lin sent some 700 Cambodians abroad on fishing vessels to countries such as South Africa, Micronesia, Fiji, Qatar, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.
These fishermen would work almost 20 hours each day with no pay, he said.
It is still not known exactly how many of these fishermen remain enslaved abroad, said Joel Preston, a consultant with the Community Legal Education Center.
“We’ve been in communication with the port police in South Africa, who’ve told us that there are a large number of Khmer fishermen there,” he said.
Because Cambodia has few links with these African countries, it is difficult to locate the fishermen, he added.