Nearly two dozen fishermen were repatriated to the Kingdom yesterday after being trafficked aboard Thai fishing boats where they endured forced labour and rampant abuse.
The 11 men bring to 30 the number of fishermen repatriated from Malaysia and Indonesia this year. They were visibly shaken as they recalled grim tales of abuse and exploitation.
Sem Sophon, 23, said that a broker he had used to find work in Thailand had sold him to a fishing boat. He was told he would make 4,500 baht (approximately US$150), but instead received no pay.
“We had to work so much, but we didn’t even get one riel,” Sem Sophon said.
Many of the men were forced to take drugs in order to be more productive, he added.
“I escaped from my sadness, now it is my new life.”
Tong Chan, 25, said he and his fellow workers were treated like animals.
He, too, was lured and cheated by brokers who promised him work in Thailand, though he vowed never to fall victim to such scams again, and encouraged others to avoid his mistakes.
“If I did not escape from the boat, I would have died, because I worked so much,” he said.
Another returnee, Kong Chan, appealed to Cambodians to learn from their travails and not take the risk of using brokers to find work across the border.
“There were so many Khmers on my boat, and there were hundreds of boats. Each one had at least 10 Khmer people,” he recalled.
The 11 men were saved after they escaped from the boat they were on while it was docked in Malaysia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with the International Organisation of Migrants and the Malaysian government secured their return.
Chhiv Phally, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, promised to investigate.
According to the Ministry of Interior, roughly 12,000 Cambodians were repatriated from foreign countries last year.