EIGHT Cambodian men believed to have been trafficked to India arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday morning after spending six months in an Indian detention centre.
The workers reportedly left Cambodia last September to find jobs in Thailand, having struck a deal with a broker who promised them fake Thai visas, passage across the border and construction work on the other side.
“I was cheated,” one of the returned workers, 19-year-old Song Pheakdey, said yesterday. “We were kept on the boat in Thailand for 28 days before we were brought illegally to India.”
He said the men didn’t realise they had been cheated until a Thai man on board told them what was happening.
The next day, he said, the man was killed.
Song Pheakdey said the men were held captive until the ship docked in India, where they were discovered and arrested by Indian authorities. After being held for six months, they were finally allowed to return home.
Government officials say the eight men are among many victims of human trafficking, which has become a growing problem for Cambodians seeking work abroad.
Say Meng Chheang, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said at the airport yesterday that traffickers must be punished, and that Cambodians should be better educated about the dangers migrant workers face.
“We are worried about people who live in rural and remote areas who don’t know enough about the problem,” he said. “They find it easy to believe in these brokers and end up getting cheated.”
Kim Sovanna, deputy director of the legal department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the men would remain under the jurisdiction of the International Organisation for Migration for the time being and did not know when they would be able to return to their families.
“These men are lucky to be back home,” he said.
“The Cambodian government and NGOs worked very hard to get them back.”
Song Pheakdey said he was very happy to return home after such a dangerous ordeal.
“I want to give a message to all Cambodians: Don’t go to work in Thailand or another country illegally, and do not believe it if someone promises to find a job for you,” he said. “We could have died there.”