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Cambodians in bid to escape Thai boats

Cambodians in bid to escape Thai boats

A desperate group of Cambodian men have made calls to their families from Indonesia asking for help to escape from forced labour aboard exploitative Thai fishing boats.

The families of 14 men from Trea commune in Kampong Thom province’s Stoung district filed a complaint to rights group Licadho yesterday pleading for help to repatriate their loved ones.

Gnan Van, 33, said yesterday that her husband Yean Phean called her while docking at an Indonesian island on Sunday pleading for help to escape a fishing boat owner who made him work “night and day” and paid no salary.

“I’ve missed my husband for two years. Since [late] 2009, I did not get any news from him,” she said. “I just got his phone call yesterday, he asked me to ask NGOs to help him and other people back to Cambodia.”

Her husband, along with 13 others, crossed into Thailand from Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district in December 2009 with a broker to work as pig farmers in Thailand despite her warnings about the risks of migrant work.

“I got some news about illegal border crossings to work in Thailand or Malaysia but my husband did not listen to me,” she said.

Oun Pheap, 59, said her son Sok Ly also ignored her when she warned him about the risks of travelling to Thailand with a broker.

“I told my son, ‘Don’t believe people who urge you to work in Thailand,’ but he did not listen to me, he just said to me that he can earn a lot of money working in Thailand,” she said.

Chhoung Run, Licadho’s Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator, said yesterday’s complaint was the second he had received in relation to the case.

“[A court official] already sent this case to the head office for them to contact our embassy in Indonesia to help them,” he said.

Mao Naream, a consular affairs official at the Cambodian embassy in Indonesia, said he was unaware of the case but would look into it.

More than 100 Cambodian men have been rescued from Indonesia, Malaysia and Mauritius since December after they were trafficked onto fishing boats in Thailand.

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