A group of five fishermen who had endured more than a year in forced labour on a Thai fishing vessel returned to an emotional reunion with their families in Phnom Penh last night.
In a scene that has become all too familiar over the past year, a group of five fishermen who had endured more than a year in forced labour on a Thai fishing vessel returned to an emotional reunion with their families in Phnom Penh last night.
The men flew into the capital’s international airport from Indonesia, where the boat they worked on was found illegally fishing.
Sim Yeng, 32, from Kandal province, said he had gone to Thailand believing that a broker in his village had found him work at a high salary for one year.
Instead, he ended up working for nothing on a fishing boat.
“It was a very difficult job on the boat. They gave us no time to rest, even though we worked day and night,” Yeng said.
“I did not get a salary, so I decided to escape. I came back home to see my family.”
Not knowing Yeng’s whereabouts had caused his family much anxiety, said his sister Sim Ngim, who greeted him at the airport. “I missed my brother so much. My family worried about him so much because he was not safe abroad – but now he’s home.”
Rouen Nam, 24, from Siem Reap province, said that once aboard the fishing vessel, he had been treated as a slave.
“They beat us if we could not complete the work they wanted . . . I swore never to go back for a job abroad. It is my life,” Nam said.
The men are the most recent group of slave labourers to be repatriated after 13 fishermen were rescued from South Africa earlier this month and in July.
“They were mistreated by a boat owner for more than a year and a month in South Africa,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Kong said in a statement.
Lim Mony, from the rights group Adhoc, said Cambodian fishermen continued to be lured by brokers to work in Thailand and other countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and South Africa.
According to the Ministry of Interior, 12,000 Cambodian workers were repatriated from abroad in 2011.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at [email protected]