Eight fishermen who escaped after more than a year of forced labour aboard a Thai fishing boat recounted tales of abuse and miserable working conditions upon their repatriation to the Kingdom yesterday.
The men said that brokers had promised them salaried jobs in Thai factories, but instead trafficked them onto Thai fishing boats for between 30,000 and 40,000 baht (between approximately US$1,000 and $1,300), where they were forced to work for free and with little rest and food.
Tim Phon, 33, who was told he would earn US$250 per month working in a Thai factory, said that the year he spent aboard the fishing vessel was “the worst in my life”.
“I thought I had died aboard that boat, but now I am back,” he told reporters, after arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday.
Twenty-five-year-old Khon Nou, of Kandal province, said he was only allowed to sleep two hours each night and was not given enough food.
“If I did not work, they threatened to shoot me into the water,” he added.
The men also appealed to authorities to save “more than a hundred” of their compatriots who they said were still aboard the vessel.
“There are more … Cambodian men, victims of human trafficking, on that boat.
They need help,” 45-year-old Van Houn, of Siem Reap province, said.
“For me, I escaped, so I am saved. I could not endure the difficult work with no rest and no salary,” he said.
According to a statement issued by Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, the eight men escaped and were rescued in Indonesia’s Maluku province by a coordinated effort among Indonesian authorities, the International Organisation of Migrants, and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Approximately 12,000 Cambodians were repatriated from foreign countries in 2011, according to the Ministry of Interior.