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Ocean duo faces new charges

Lin Li-chen, general manager of Giant Ocean International
Lin Li-chen, general manager of Giant Ocean International, covers her face after a hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in February. Sreng Meng Srun

Ocean duo faces new charges

Two members of a notorious recruitment agency who have already been convicted of selling Cambodians as forced labourers yesterday faced additional charges of
human trafficking.

Lin Li-chen, also known as Lin Yu-shin 44, the jailed former general manager of Giant Ocean International Fishery Co, and her at-large husband Chen Chun-mu, 49, were tried at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

The Taiwanese nationals are charged with duping two Kampong Cham men into working in slave-like conditions on a fishing boat in South Africa in 2010, according to presiding judge Kor Vandy.

Giant Ocean received a licence to send workers to Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Kuwait in 2010, according to the Ministry of Labour. But rights groups assisting repatriated victims estimate the firm sent as many as 1,000 men overseas to work as fishermen under deplorable conditions in South Africa, Senegal, Fiji and Mauritius.

One of the two victims who filed the current lawsuit, Thean Otdom, 27, told the court yesterday that he had applied to Giant Ocean in May 2010 to work in Malaysia. Two weeks after applying, he said, he was recruited and promised $150 per month plus bonuses.

“But when I was on the flight, I was sent to South Africa. And when I arrived at the South African airport, I was received by an unknown Chinese man and immediately sent to work on a giant fishing ship,” he said. “While working at sea, I was always beaten by the ship’s captains. They forced men to work 24 hours a day, every day.”

Otdom never saw any payment, but, unlike many of the other Giant Ocean victims, was able to escape after just a few months.

In April, six Giant Ocean employees, including Lin and Chen, were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and ordered to pay 128 victims unpaid wages as well as damages. Only Lin, who filed an appeal in May, has been arrested.

If convicted in the current trial, Lin and Chen could face an additional seven to 15 years in prison, according to the law on human trafficking.

As in the previous lawsuit, Lin yesterday denied having any managerial involvement within the agency, which she claims to have worked for as a translator, though she speaks only Chinese.

“I was not the owner of Giant Ocean International Fishery. I was also a company employee working for pay,” she told the court via translation yesterday.

The verdicts are due on August 13.

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