On Friday, 13 Cambodians were repatriated after months of gruelling work trapped aboard Malaysian fishing trawlers, according to rights groups that helped with the returns.
The men, who had been trafficked onto the fishing vessels, had been promised high salaries, but instead some earned nothing while others were paid at most two million riel ($500) over nine months of work that included brutal hours and minimal food, according to Mom Sokchar, program coordinator at NGO Legal Support for Women and Children.
“When they wanted to return to Cambodia, the boat owner said they had to pay 40,000 baht ($1,250) first . . . and if they didn’t have it, they had to work until they earned it,” he said.
Alerted to the men’s situation, Malaysian police organised a rescue mission in the middle of the night.
After returning to their families, several of the fishermen filed complaints with Anti-Human Trafficking Police.
Another fisherman seeking repatriation, meanwhile, remains trapped on a remote Indonesian island, according to his father.
Hai Klau said his son had to return to work on boats illegally plying Indonesian waters in order to get food and shelter.