Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Insufficient evidence in US trafficking case

Insufficient evidence in US trafficking case

Migrant workers repair a net on a Thai fishing boat in Thailand’s Rayong province. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP
Migrant workers repair a net on a Thai fishing boat in Thailand’s Rayong province. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

Insufficient evidence in US trafficking case

A United States district court has dismissed a case against two Thai and two American companies filed by seven Cambodians allegedly trafficked and forced to work on fishing boats.

Central District Court of California Judge John F Walter ruled on Thursday to toss out the case, with his earlier arguments contending that there was not enough evidence of a connection between companies in the US and the alleged trafficking.

The complaint was filed in June 2016 and alleges the seven Cambodians – two women and five men – were lured to Thailand under false promises and held in extreme working conditions for Thai Phatthana Seafood company in 2011 and 2012. The firm exports to the US.

The complaint details the workers’ arduous migration to Thailand, in which they were allegedly “packed like sardines in a pick-up truck” and continually threatened with violence. After arriving, the complaint alleged, conditions remained dire, with workers facing food shortages.

“[S]ome workers could not afford to purchase enough food and were constantly hungry. For example, Plaintiffs Ban and Nakry looked for food growing in nearby fields and found snails and fish washed up on the shore in order to eat,” it continues.

When workers tried to leave, they were allegedly told they couldn’t get their confiscated passports back until they had paid off exorbitant recruitment fees, out of reach given their salaries were well below what they were allegedly promised.

The complaint contended that US companies Rubicon Resources, and Wales & Co Universe – along with Thai companies Phatthana Seafood and SS Frozen Food – were responsible for peonage, forced labour, involuntary servitude and human trafficking, as they were “participants in a joint venture that in violation of US law knowingly profited from the import and sale of shrimp and seafood produced with trafficked labor”.

In the December 21 minutes preceding the judgment, Judge Walter argued there wasn’t sufficient proof to establish a connection between the US firms and trafficking to warrant the court’s jurisdiction over the case.

The complaint also implicates Cambodian recruitment agency CDM Trading Manpower in arranging the migration and extorting workers. Lim Vouchna, an officer of the company, said CDM Trading Manpower no longer worked with Phatthana.

Dy The Hoya, of labour rights organisation Central, said judicial processes were “very complicated” for victims of human trafficking and that companies often won court cases due to inequality of resources. “It’s not fair for the workers,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.