FIVE Cambodian migrants who spent almost a year in an Indonesian jail after being tricked into working as fishermen on Thai boats for two years were repatriated to Cambodia late last night.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong identified the five men as Chea Yun and Van Savouth from Takeo province, Chhuong Chhim from Banteay Meanchey, Phen Chhoeun from Oddar Meanchey and Iem Kim from Siem Reap.
Speaking shortly after arriving at Phnom Penh International Airport last night, Chhuong Chim, 23, said he’d worked as a fisherman in Thailand for roughly two years before being arrested by Indonesian authorities.
“I was in detention for about 10 months,” he said. “We were put in jail like Indonesian prisoners, but we were not hurt. I am very happy to be back.”
Koy Kuong said the five migrants were “cheated” in 2007 by a broker who said he could find them jobs in Thailand. When they arrived, they were sold by the broker to the owner of a Thai fishing boat. They were caught fishing in Indonesian territory and arrested last October.
“They worked as slaves for the Thai fishing boat owner for almost two years,” Koy Kuong said.
He said the ordeal of the five men should serve as a deterrent for Cambodian migrants who plan to migrate illegally to find work overseas.
“If Cambodian workers want to work outside the country, it should be done legally,” he said. “If they are illegal, they’re better working locally so they can avoid being cheated into working like slaves and facing arrest.” He added that the Cambodian government worked closely with the International Organisation for Migration in Phnom Penh to negotiate their return to the Kingdom.
Preap Pintheary, second secretary of the Cambodian Embassy in Indonesia, who accompanied the men on their return trip, said Indonesian authorities had cooperated throughout the repatriation process.
“We spent two months and 18 days in negotiations for the release of these workers,” he said.