Three teenage boys who were held as slaves on a Thai fishing boat for weeks have been returned to Cambodia and have filed a complaint with the Anti-Human Trafficking department in an attempt to seek out the broker who tricked them, Cambodian NGO Action Pour Les Enfants said yesterday.
The teenagers, aged 16 and 17, were repatriated with assistance from APLE on December 31 after their ordeal.
“From our research, we know that the boys were lured and cheated by masterminds to cross the border illegally in Thailand and then were tricked to work on a Thai fishing boat,” APLE country director Samleang Seila told the Post.
“It is a serious labour abuse to have these boys trafficked under-age,” Samleang Seila said.
“The victims crossed in the wilderness along the border at Poipet into Thailand where other brokers picked them up and took them to the fishing boat where they were held.”
Samleang Seila said the boys were forced to perform hard labour and work overtime until Thai authorities rescued them.
Human trafficking of young, and often under-age, males to fishing boats in Thailand made headlines last year as returnees described the horror and merciless conditions of their captivity aboard the boats. APLE often cooperated with Thai authorities to repatriate tricked and trafficked victims, Samleang Seila said.
In this instance, on December 12, when the families of the boys reported them missing after they had disappeared three days earlier, APLE contacted the Thai Senate Committee on Labour and Social Welfare to coordinate a rescue.
Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection office, declined to comment in detail about the complaint for fear the brokers would take flight or go into hiding.
“We are investigating and we will continue our investigations until we catch the brokers,” Keo Thea said. Toek Salin, the 45-year-old father of one of the victims, said his son had been studying in grade 11 at school, but he had not realised his son had wanted to work.
“We never allowed our son to work, just to study only, but then one day, he did not come home from school, and we had no idea where he was or what had happened,” Toek Salin said.
Between December 6 and 12 last year, 60 Cambodian fishermen were rescued from boats in Indonesia and repatriated after being lured to Thailand supposedly to work in high-paying jobs.
Instead, the fishermen were subjected to abusive working conditions on the boats and were not paid, the Post reported.