Seventeen workers, believed to be victims of a human trafficking operation, fled a Thai juice factory in the dead of night last week in order to return home to Cambodia’s Pursat province.
The Cambodians – all from Pursat’s Bakan district – decided to flee after working at the factory, in Thailand’s Suphan Buri district, for 28 days. They claimed yesterday that their lives had been threatened and that they were not paid for their work.
Officials believe the workers are part of a group of 57 people from Bakan district who were tricked into leaving for Thailand, with the promise of well-paid work at a car factory.
Suspected broker Sam Chhunleng, 43, was charged with unlawful recruitment for exploitation last week, while another suspect is being investigated.
Victim Chhun Chhornly, 28, said yesterday: “We were really afraid of the factory owner … because the factory owner used to tell all the workers that we would be shot dead if they knew we wanted to run away.”
The group, he said, escaped from the juice factory at midnight before meeting a truck, hired by some of their worried relatives and parked 20 minutes away, to take them to a border at Banteay Meanchey and back home.
Ou Sarann, 25, claims he realised he had been trafficked after working at the factory for a week.
When he asked about wages, he was told he had been sold to the facility.
“We were waiting to see if an organisation or officials could help us to leave from the factory, but we did not see anyone. Then, we decided to flee from the factory by ourselves,” he said yesterday.
Heang Sytha, director of Pursat province’s human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said yesterday that officials were trying to locate the rest of the group.
“We are trying our best to help them by cooperating with the Interior Ministry and consulting with Thailand,” he said, adding that officials were worried about their safety.