The last 10 Cambodian fishermen who recently escaped virtual slavery on a Thai fishing trawler finally returned home yesterday afternoon after efforts by the Cambodian government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The men were among a group of 29 Cambodians who had crossed the border to Thailand after being promised well-paying jobs, but were instead sold to the owner of a fishing boat who took them to Indonesia’s Maluku islands and forced them to work under inhumane conditions, said the IOM.
The 19 others had returned to the Kingdom last month.
Phiev Khay, national project officer at the IOM, said five of the 10 were minors between 16 and 17 years old.
Khay told the Post that IOM would be putting the group up at a hotel in Phnom Penh pending health check-ups and investigations by the Interior Ministry later this week, adding that the men “are in good health”.
Stepping off their flight from Jakarta at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday, the group described the trying conditions they were made to work in.
Sixteen-year-old Ming Kieng said he was made to work from the wee hours of the morning until late in the night without rest – and was often kicked and beaten if he refused to comply.
“We were forced to catch many tonnes of fish per day and were abused by the boat owner if we did not work hard,” he said.
Kieng will be reunited with his parents – whom the IOM brought to Phnom Penh – and will return to his home in Takeo province this weekend.
Despite this example to the contrary, the Labour Ministry said in a report earlier this week that human trafficking is on the decline in the Kingdom, with 133 cases in 2012, a decrease of 61 from the prior year.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at [email protected]
With assistance from Danson Cheong