A group of seven Cambodian fishermen who suffered a harrowing ordeal as trafficked slaves on Thai and Malaysian fishing boats will be repatriated to the Kingdom on July 29.
The men jumped ship from their boats off the Malaysian coast in March and April after ordeals during which they said they were beaten, employed as slaves and force-fed drugs.
In one case, a member of the group reportedly witnessed crew members being shot at and tossed overboard for the amusement of a boat captain.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday the International Organisation for Migration was helping to repatriate the seven victims and had paid for their airline tickets.
“They were helped greatly by the IOM, government officials and the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia. They don’t have passports, but the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia is allowing them to come to Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said.
In a familiar story for victims of trafficking in the region, the men’s passports were seized by their respective captains after they were forced onto the boats, having paid a broker in Cambodia to secure them lucrative jobs on the Thai mainland.
After the seven men escaped the boats in two separate groups, they survived on meagre wages working in plywood factories in the Malaysian province of Sarawak.
They were finally rescued by Malaysian police during raids on the factories in May and June, but five other victims from the boats remain unaccounted for.
IOM project co-ordinator Bruno Maltoni said the rescued fishermen had been interviewed by the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia using forms from his organisation to screen trafficking victims.
“We co-ordinated; we received a request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide support for the voluntary return of the seven fishermen,” Maltoni said yesterday.
Efforts to locate the men who have yet to be rescued were continuing, he said.