Prey Veng villagers protest court order, arguing they were given false
promises of work abroad and should not be forced to honour contract.
Rights group says human trafficking remains pervasive, and largely unpunished, in Cambodia. Some 141 human trafficking cases were reported last year, but only 15 were heard by the courts, according to a February report by the Cambodian National Council for Women.
VILLAGERS in Prey Veng province's Mesang district filed a complaint Monday with local rights group Adhoc over a court decision demanding they hand over their property to a man they say is a human trafficker who duped them to work in Thailand.
Vi Savoeun, 21, said he was promised a job in Thailand by Len Own in 2005, but was put in prison when arriving there because he did not have immigration documents.
"I was promised a job in Thailand with 20 other men. We are poor and had hoped to earn money, but we were arrested and put in jail for four days and then sent back to Cambodia."
I was promised a job in thailand with 20 other men... we were arrested and put in jail for 4 days and sent back to Cambodia.
He said he had mortgaged his land title to Len Own in exchange for a promise of employment across the border.
Another man, Khin Sat, 21, said he also faced property seizure, including his house and motorbike, following a broken promise of employment from Len Own. He also said he was promised 400,000 riels (US$96.95) as an upfront bonus, but he did not see the money.
Scared to speak up
Several families are facing property seizures from the court, but only two families have filed a complaint with Adhoc, according to the group's provincial monitor Nget Nara, who said the other families feared reprimands from local authorities if they came forward.
He said the court flaunted the law and made its ruling "without any investigation".
"The is a typical case of human trafficking where we see villagers cheated because they are very poor" and easily lured with promises of money, he added.
He said two cases of human trafficking in Prey Veng had been reported to Adhoc last year, and this was the first case it received this year. He said people should inform authorities before attempting to work abroad in order to avoid falling victim to exploitation.
March 11 is the deadline for Prey Veng's provincial court to seize the homes in Sramor village, Prey Rumdeng commune. Nget Nara saidt he would write a letter to the court to delay the seizure and open further investigation.
Provincial prosecutor Yam Yet said that it was not his role to solve villagers' complaint, but to follow the court's decision.
But he added: "I know they are poor and have nowhere to live if we seize their property, so I will check all possibilities of helping them."
Len Own could not be contacted Monday.