The families of 14 Cambodian men from a village in Kampot are scrambling to have them rescued after learning all of them had been trafficked to Thailand and were about to leave on a fishing boat to Indonesia.
The men – aged 16 to 42 – are all from the same village and had left their homes in Kampot’s Chhouk district on April 26, following a broker who had promised them lucrative jobs at a fishing port in Thailand, said Chea Ron, 33, whose husband and 16-year-old brother are among the duped men from Taken commune.
But on Saturday, Ron’s husband, Touch Thoeun, 36, called her in a panic and told her that he and the rest of the men were instead about to leave on a fishing boat bound for Indonesian waters, she said.
“[Both my husband and brother] were on the verge of tears when they said they would be forced to fish and that [their employers] had been giving them two unknown pills to take each day.”
The families have filed a complaint with both commune authorities and the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) – and the NGO is assisting them with their claims.
Taken commune councilor Nou Pav said he had received the complaint and was investigating.
Villagers like Ron’s husband and brother were frequently duped by promises of lucrative jobs, because the land they had was often inadequate for supporting their families, while construction jobs here paid much less than those across the border, said Moeun Tola, head of the CLEC’s labour program.
“The fact that border officials are easily bribed and practices are ineffective at preventing these people from working illegally causes more illegal migration,” Tola said.
Villagers told the Post the broker – Im Bros, from neighbouring Chumkiri district – had offered the men $300 a month and smuggled them out in a car through a border checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey.
When contacted by phone, Bro rebuffed the families’ claims and promised to intervene personally if the men were indeed found to be trafficked.
“As far as I know, they are not trafficked. They will only fish some distance from the harbour and will return,” he said.