Four Cambodian fishermen released by Somali pirates last month recounted their ordeal at a press conference hosted by NGO Caritas yesterday.
Khorn Vanthy, 26, from Kampong Cham; Kin Kemhen, 33, of Kratie; and Em Phoum Many, 33, and Nhem Soksan, 33, both from Kampong Chhnang, spent almost five years as hostages after their fishing vessel Naham 3 was attacked in March 2012.
Following the payment of a $1.5 million ransom, they were released along with 22 other surviving non-Cambodian crew members on October 22.
In 2012, the pirates’ initial ransom demand had been $20 million for all 26 crewmembers. Phoum Many spoke of how the Cambodians were forced at gunpoint to telephone their embassy in Washington and request $1 million for their release.
“The embassy said that this is a huge amount of money, we will find a way to help you, but we are not sure whether we can help you,” Phoum Many recalled.
Later, a pirate shot one of the Cambodians in the foot after his request to relieve himself triggered an argument.
“After that, we decided among ourselves to stop eating, because they would shoot us one day whether we ate or not,” Phoum Many said.
Kim Ratana, executive director of Caritas Cambodia, promised his organisation would provide the four fishermen with counselling and support as long as was necessary.