Thirty Cambodian men among 65 who were trafficked into hard labour aboard fishing boats in Thailand were repatriated to the Kingdom yesterday after being rescued in Indonesia.
“First, their health was examined and then they were sent to the Ministry of Interior to be interviewed to investigate the real reason why they went to Thailand and with who exactly and what they experienced,” Bit Kim Hong, director of the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department at the Ministry of Interior, said yesterday.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said that another 30 men would return to Cambodia on December 12, while it was uncertain when the remaining five would be repatriated.
He added that the ministry and the Cambodian embassy in Jakarta were working with Indonesian authorities, along with the International Organisation for Migration.
The repatriated men told the Post yesterday that they had been tricked and sold onto the fishing boats.
Kum Kara, 29, of Takeo province, said he went to work in Thailand for one year with his friend where they were cheated by brokers along the border and sold onto fishing boats.
“I was told I would get a lot of salary, but at last I have no money,” he said.
Another worker, Son Mab, 36, of Pailin province, said he left for Thailand in 2009 where he was one day persuaded to enter a car and subsequently forced onto a boat for many months along with other Khmer workers. “For a few years, I just see the big sea,” he said.
Len Ni, 29, of Siem Reap province, said he had paid money to a Thai broker, but had no intention of working on a fishing boat.
“I missed my relatives so much. It was the worst experience in my life,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, an investigator for rights group Licadho, said yesterday that the group had recorded 75 Cambodian workers so far this year who were trafficked onto fishing boats and later repatriated from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Mauritius.
“They were sold to the boats for 40,000 baht (US$1,298) each. They venture abroad without knowing anything until they become victims of trafficking and don’t receive a salary,” he said. “They do not have enough food, no medicine for when they are ill and they are forced to overwork and are tortured. Some who are seriously ill and cannot work are pushed into the sea.”
On November 5, 24 trafficking victims sold onto fishing boats in Thailand were repatriated to Cambodia from Mauritius.
An official from the Indonesian embassy in Cambodia said that the embassy did not have any information about the repatriated men.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MARY KOZLOVSKI