EIGHT Cambodian men who are believed to have been trafficked to India will be repatriated Wednesday after spending six months in an Indian detention centre, officials said Monday.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said the men were transported to India on a Thai fishing vessel.
“All of them are Cambodian citizens...” he said. “If we did not help them on time, they would be working like slaves on a fishing boat for the rest of their lives.”
The men are believed to have struck a deal with a middleman in Cambodia that they thought would lead to jobs in Thailand, but they then found themselves in Indian waters unexpectedly, Koy Kuong said.
“They knew nothing until they woke up in the middle of the ocean,” he said.
Authorities were made aware of the case after relatives of the men reported them missing, Koy Kuong said. At first, Indian officials planned to send the eight men to Thailand, believing they were Thai citizens because they had fake Thai passports.
“Our Cambodian embassy officials in New Delhi have worked with Indian authorities to find the necessary documents needed to secure their return to Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said. He added that he was unsure how long the eight men had been out of the country.
Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said that although Thailand may be a more common destination for victims of human trafficking, there have been other cases in which Cambodians have been sent to countries such as India, East Timor and South Korea.
“Migrants are often easily cheated by brokers because they don’t have land, so they have to go find a job to support their families abroad,” he said.
Officials at the Indian embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.