At least 10 Cambodian fishermen who escaped virtual slavery on a Thai trawler will soon return home, the government and rescue agencies announced yesterday.
After crossing to Thailand in 2009 for well-paying jobs promised by a broker, the men instead were sold to the owner of a fishing boat, who took them to Indonesia’s Maluku islands and forced them to work long hours in abusive conditions, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
Eight of the men escaped in December, when their boat docked in a remote part of the islands, and managed to contact their families, who notified the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), program officer Huy Pichsovann said.
Indonesian authorities, after receiving a tip-off from CLEC, rescued the men four days after their escape.
They used the information to rescue several more captive Cambodian fishermen in the area, whose number a government press release put at 11 and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) put at 15.
Details were hazy because the rescued men were still being interviewed, Pichsovann said, but according to IOM, fishermen trafficked in Thailand are often “expected to work up to 20 hours a day. Threats, physical violence and withholding of payment are commonplace.”
The first eight men to be rescued would be repatriated in the very near future, followed by the others, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuoy Kong said in the government statement.
Indonesian authorities were working with Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cambodian embassy in Indonesia to process travel documents for the men, who did not have passports, Pichsovann said.
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