Provincial anti-human trafficking police arrested a broker on Tuesday accused of duping 14 Kampot men who were trafficked to Thailand to work illegally on fishing vessels, the victims’ families and local authorities said yesterday.
Im Bros was arrested at his home in Chumkiri district after 10 of the workers’ family members went to see the broker with undercover police, purportedly to ask for the $300 in monthly wages the men had been promised.
“We co-operated with the police and went to the broker’s house with two policeman who were disguised as part of our group,” Cheam Ron, whose husband was trafficked, said.
The men – aged 16 to 42 – are all from the same village and left their homes in Chhouk district on April 26, after the broker promised lucrative jobs across the border.
On May 11, one of the trafficked workers called his wife in a panic, saying the men were about to be put on a fishing boat bound for Indonesia and forced to take unknown pills.
That was the last the families heard from the men until Monday, when Bros visited Nak Sarath, 24, giving her a Thai phone number to contact her husband on.
“The broker asked me to call my husband whenever he allows me. If he does not tell me I can call, I cannot call . . . He did so to make us believe that my husband is fine,” she told the Post.
Her husband, 27-year-old Chey Veasna, told her on the phone that he was on a boat in Indonesia and that she should not believe anything the broker said, she added.
Mouen Tola, head of the labour program at the Cambodian Legal Education Center, which is assisting the families, said he believed the fishing boats holding the workers could still be in Thai waters, making it difficult to appeal to Indonesian authorities.
The arrested broker, who claimed not to know the location of the vessels, was a low-level operative in a trafficking ring, he said, adding that authorities were now searching for more senior brokers.
“There are only two possibilities to rescue the victims: we find the main broker and get him to tell us where the boat is or we find out in which territory the victims are in and work with our neighbours to rescue them.”
Provincial anti-human trafficking police chief Chen Ov said yesterday that authorities were questioning the arrested broker but had not yet decided whether to charge him.
Additional reporting by Kevin Ponniah