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Trafficking fears fuel plea for aid

Trafficking fears fuel plea for aid

111205_03
Recruits stand on balconies at a T&P training centre in Phnom Penh in March, before it was shuttered in October.

Nineteen Cambodians worried they are about to be trafficked by a Thai company connected to disgraced labour firm T&P pleaded for help yesterday, saying their passports had been taken and salaries withheld.

Ton Sasmith, 27, said he and 29 others were sent to the recruitment agency IMPA in Thailand to work for shipping firm DHL by T&P on September 17, but after floods ravaged the company, forcing the company to end their contracts, they were left jobless and stranded.

“The IMPA director did not give us a salary or our passports, and they moved us from one place to another place without telling us exactly,” he said, adding he and another man were in a house that was being surrounded by security guards in Bangkok. “They forced us to sign to complete the contract with the company [IMPA], and if we don’t sign, they will send us to prison.”

Eleven of the group had already escaped from IMPA, including one man who fled on Saturday night, while 17 others had again been moved to an unknown location, a trip he and anther man had refused to make.

Chiv Phally, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said yesterday he had contacted the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on Saturday and asked them to assign department of special investigation officers.

“We are worried about their security, that’s why we are trying to cooperate with the UNODC and DSI,” he said.

“We need more documents in order to send to our embassy in Bangkok and the Cambodian-Thailand Border Relations [police], but if the UNODC system can help them successfully, we won’t need to work with the Cambodia-Thailand Border Relations [police],” he said.

A warrant for the arrest of T&P director Sam Piseth was issued in October after underage trainees were found in its training centre during a police raid.

Sam Piseth is in hiding, and his company, which has been implicated in a litany of abuse scandals, has been shut down.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said there was no evidence yet that IMPA were trafficking the men but there were some alarming signs.

“IMPA better watch themselves, because we’re watching them, and if there is malarkey, if people are being sold to fishing boats, we will work with NGOs to hold them accountable,” he said.

“There’s no clear information about what IMPA intends to do with [the men] and there is a fear that they might end up in a trafficking situation, but there’s no evidence that that has happened.”

Huy Pich Sovann, a program officer at the Community Legal Education Centre, yesterday said he was concerned some of the group would be trafficked to notoriously brutal Thai fishing boats as slave labour because they had been taken to Samut Prakan province.

“Samut Prakan is the place to obtain fishing supplies, so this place is well known for selling people onto fishing boats,” he said.

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