A Taiwanese woman appeared in court yesterday, accused of being one of six people to sell 128 Cambodian labourers as slaves in the fishing trade between 2010 and 2012.
Kor Vandy, presiding judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said the six accused, among them the general manager and the president of the Giant Ocean International Fishery Co, “persuaded and illegally recruited Cambodian labourers to work as fishermen in Malaysia and Japan”.
“When the victims had signed the contract with their company, they sold them to work in Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, India, South Africa and Australia,” Vandy said.
Lin Li-chen, Giant Ocean’s general manager, 44, was arrested by Cambodian authorities based on the victims’ complaints in Siem Reap province in March 2013. However, the others, five men also from Taiwan, escaped and were tried yesterday in absentia.
Taking the stand yesterday, victim Kong Rith, 32, said he had applied for work in Japan. He was recruited and promised a salary of $150 per month, plus bonuses. After arriving in South Africa instead, he was immediately sent to work on a large fishing ship, he told the court.
“I was always beaten by the Chinese boss and his people, who forced us to work 24-hour shifts. I managed to escape from the ship when it landed at the harbour.”
During 18 months of work, Rith received only $38. He now demands his full salary and an additional $5,000 as compensation for his ordeal.
Yeng Choeun, 29, said he was recruited for work in Malaysia but sent to Hong Kong instead, where he worked under equally cruel conditions as Rith.
During yesterday’s hearing, the only culprit present denied the accusations, claiming she did not know that the men were sent to the mentioned countries, while confirming that they applied for work at her company and were sent overseas.
“The company did not pay my salary either,” Lin told the court, and asked for the charges against her to be dropped.
If found guilty, the six accused face up to 15 years in prison. The trial will continue on February 28.