Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Slaves’ finally home

‘Slaves’ finally home

‘Slaves’ finally home


Four trafficked fishermen return to Cambodia yesterday after being rescued by South African authorities. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Four Cambodian men held for months as slaves on a boat off the coast of South Africa were greeted by their relieved families at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday after being rescued from their ordeal.

One of the fishermen, Kha Mara, 29, said the group had suffered months of physical and mental torment after believing they had signed up to work in Japan.

“We were forced to work without rest and salary and even during rainstorms,” he said on his return. “If we refused to work, they beat us.”

The four men, all from Kampong Cham province, were punched and kicked if their Taiwanese captors believed they were not doing enough work or if they “looked lazy”, Kha Mara said.

The men’s rescue was set in motion when they managed to call their families when the ship docked in South Africa.

Their families complained to the Community Legal Education Center, and an operation that also involved the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CLEC, South African authorities and the International Migration Organisation helped secure their freedom.

Nov Chon, 49, was happy and relieved when his 25-year-old son, Seng Sokha, walked through the airport’s arrival gate yesterday.

“My son worked out in the ocean for more than 19 months without getting the monthly salary they had promised him – $200,” Chon said. “The company had promised that $50 of this would be sent to us each month, but it never was.”

The company Chon was referring to, according to a document released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, is Giant Ocean International Fishery Co, which Huy Pich Sovann, program officer at CLEC, said had been difficult to investigate because it had “disappeared”.

The workers had medical check-ups after arriving home, Sovann said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Koung could not be reached for comment yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at [email protected]


  • EU officials: Ending EBA an 18-month procedure

    EU officials have confirmed that it will take a total of 18 months to complete the procedure if Cambodia’s preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement is to be withdrawn. According to EU Agriculture and Rural Development spokesman Daniel Rosario, the formal process has not

  • IPU slams government claim

    The president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Gabriela Cuevas Barron, has refuted a claim by the National Assembly that she “highly appreciated the achievements of Cambodia” in its July national elections with a tweet saying “Of course not!” before adding “No congratulations”. A delegation from

  • Conflict lingers on Paris Accords

    As the Kingdom prepares to commemorate on October 23 the 27th anniversary of the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, which ushered in an end to nearly two decades of civil war, there is political conflict on whether the tenets of the agreement are still being

  • EU agrees VN trade deal despite rights concerns

    The EU on Wednesday agreed to a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam, a country described as having a “major rights-abusing government”. This comes amid the 28-nation bloc preparing the procedure for a possible withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade agreement on