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Trafficked fishermen released on ransom

A group of eight Cambodians held for ransom on a Thai fishing boat were freed over the weekend after their families paid 1,000 baht (US$32) per person to a human trafficker in Thailand who is still holding another nine victims, victims and police said yesterday.

The men, who hail from Torng Tralach commune, in Kampong Cham province’s Srey Santhor district, were allegedly trafficked to Thailand from bordering Koh Kong province last month by a Thai woman whose name remains unknown.

Torng Tralach commune chief Chas Choeun said yesterday he had filled a complaint to Koh Kong anti-human trafficking authorities seeking help to rescue those still trapped on a boat that set sail from Trat province’s Klorng Sun district, in southeast Thailand.

“These residents were promised work in Koh Kong with a salary of $200 a month, but they fell prey to work without salary in Thailand,” he said, urging the government to intervene.

Three other victims had returned earlier after also paying the ransom.

Victim Phorn Phoung, said his trip to work in Koh Kong ended up costing his family money.

“When I was transported to Thailand, I felt upset because I was seasick, could not eat and even worked without being paid, because [my salary] was considered compensation for the cost of transport,” he said.

Srey Thuch, police chief of the Koh Kong anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection office, said he had passed the case to higher authorities.

“More than 10 people returned home on their own while the remaining [men] said they didn’t want to come back, realising they had made an illegal crossing because they want to make a profit,” he said.

In Kongchit, Koh Kong coordinator of the rights group Licadho, said 20 people who were trafficked into Thailand through the province were intercepted last month.

“The masterminds have systematic connections with the authorities for transporting the people and the police don’t arrest them though they are identified and the court also hasn’t cracked down on human trafficking after cases were sent by the police,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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