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Thai court throws out case of trafficked men

Migrant workers sort fish on a Thai fishing boat. An appeal of the case filed by Cambodian workers alleging they suffered abuse from their Thai employers was denied this week.
Migrant workers sort fish on a Thai fishing boat. An appeal of the case filed by Cambodian workers alleging they suffered abuse from their Thai employers was denied this week. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

Thai court throws out case of trafficked men

An appeal by 11 Cambodian fishermen allegedly trafficked and enslaved on fishing boats in Thailand before their rescue last year was dismissed Thursday by a Thai court.

A previous decision this year found that the 11 Cambodian plaintiffs could not prove they had been forced into work and held against their will.

The Appeal Court Region 8’s decision to reject the appeal was issued at the end of October but read to the public last Thursday, according to Nishkhan Usayapant, case manager of Human Rights and Development Foundation’s Anti-Trafficking Project.

“The circumstances presented were not enough to establish that the workers were threatened or forced to work on boats against their will,” the court argued, according to Usayapant. “The victims testified that the captain angrily splashed water at them while on the boat. The captain also knocked the boat with an axe, an act the victims feel threatened by.”

She said these two bits of testimony were part of the appeal as they had not been considered by the court of first instance. The appeal court ruled, however, that it was a “warning” or “disciplinary punishment” and not proof of intimidation, she said.

A case against boat owner Kamneungnuan Wongkajornkitti remains in the evidence gathering stage, Usayapant said. “The relevant government agencies are in discussion on how to collect witness testimony from the victims who have returned to Cambodia.”

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