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Trafficked fishermen rescued in Indonesia

More than 60 Cambodian men trafficked into slave labour aboard fishing boats have again been rescued in a foreign country, this time in Indonesia.

Several groups of Cambodian men who have escaped brutal conditions aboard fishing boats after being lured to Thailand with the promise of lucrative jobs have already been rescued in Malaysia, Thailand and Mauritius.

In a statement yesterday, Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the men were from different provinces in Cambodia and were lured to work illegally on Thai fishing boats for many years.

“Thirty of the total 65 Cambodian human trafficking victims will travel back home next week,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cambodian ambassador in Indonesia and the International Organisation for Migration had co-operated to repatriate the men, it said.

Lim Tith, National Project Co-ordinator at the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, said that, according to victims, there were about 1,000 men in Indonesia who had escaped fishing boats, although they could provide little additional information.

“This is the really difficult thing. Many of the victims do not recognise the boat, but they say the other crew members are Burmese or Thai,” he said.

“And they only know the nickname of the captain, but they do not know exactly the name of the boat.

“This is really challenging for [organisations attempting to] counter trafficking.”

The number of men rescued from Ambon, in Indonesia, had been reported to him as 63, not 65, Lim Tith said.

Meas Saneth, a program manager at Co-ordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility, said the victims had crossed into Thailand from Banteay Meanchey province seeking work in 2010, after which their parents contacted CARAM asking for help.

“The process [of repatriation] is under way, and we are now dealing with our partners and the IOM,” he said.

Bruno Maltoni, a project coordinator for the International Organisation for Migration, said he was too busy to comment. A consular official from the Cambodian embassy in Indonesia said he was not authorised to talk to the press.

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