Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Court sentences three for trafficking workers

Court sentences three for trafficking workers

Court sentences three for trafficking workers

Human rights NGO International Justice Mission (IJM) on Friday hailed the conviction of three “key players” in a Siem Reap-based human trafficking network responsible for recruiting, transporting and selling Cambodian migrant workers into the Thai fishing industry. Despite the convictions, however, it is unclear if the victims will ever see compensation, or if two of the traffickers on the run will serve their sentences.

According to an IJM statement, on Thursday the Siem Reap Provincial Court gave Nath Sambath and Nget Phalla nine-year sentences and Moeut Kia an eight-year prison term, while the six Cambodian men who testified against them “were awarded compensation in amounts ranging from two million to twenty-five million riel [about $6,250].” They were among 230 Cambodians rescued from Thai fishing boats in Indonesian waters in June 2015.

IJM lawyers gained power of attorney for the six victims and passed their accounts to the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police in Siem Reap.

Matt Friedman, the CEO of the Hong Kong-based anti-slavery nonprofit The Mekong Club, lauded the convictions as a milestone, pointing to the low number of previous arrests and convictions in Cambodia.

“It sends a strong message to those doing these criminal activities ‘You may be next’,” said Friedman, a former Regional project manager for the United Nations International Project on Human Trafficking. The US State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons report identifies 69 prosecutions under Cambodia’s 2008 Anti-Trafficking Law.

The convictions, however, are only part of the story. As Peter Williams of IJM acknowledged, the court-mandated compensations are meant to be paid by the convicted traffickers, who in the past have refused to pay.

Furthermore, Phalla fled and remains at large after previously being granted bail by an investigating judge, while Kia has never appeared before the court.

“Victims of Thailand’s seafood slavery generally, despite a massive input of foreign aid and Asean government actions, rarely receive a prompt remedy, rehabilitation or any compensation at all for their years or even decades of abuse at sea or in seafood processing,” said migrant worker rights specialist Andy Hall.

He called for the establishment of a “seafood slavery fund” by Thailand, other governments and seafood industry players.

MOST VIEWED

  • Sihanoukville to begin road project

    The government will spend $200 million to improve Sihanoukville’s infrastructure. The eight-month project will involve the rebuilding of 34 streets with a total of more than 84km. Pal Chandara, the secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, told The Post

  • Artefact is seized from American auctioneers

    Cambodian and US archaeologists on Thursday discussed the formalities and procedures of returning to Cambodia an artefact which was recently seized by US Homeland Security Investigators (HSI) from an auction house in San Francisco. On Monday, the HSI said US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),

  • Bodhisattva statue unearthed

    The Apsara National Authority technical team uncovered a sandstone statue of a Bodhisattva while carrying out excavation work at the east entrance of the Ta Nei temple on October 8. The team was trying to find the temple’s roof stone, which had fallen into a

  • More charges as Rainsy allies warned against backing plot

    More than 20 people have been either arrested or charged with “plotting” since Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), announced his return to the Kingdom next month. The majority of the arrests have come after September 20, when the