Four Cambodian fishermen who were held hostage by Somali pirates for nearly five years will head to their home provinces this week after being released on October 22 and returning to Phnom Penh on Sunday.
“I didn’t think I would survive to come back and see my wife, children and relatives in the village,” one of the former hostages, Nhem Soksan, 37, said on Tuesday afternoon during a press conference at the Phnom Penh office of Caritas, one of the organizations offering support.
The men were among 29 crew members aboard the FV Naham 3 when it was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean about 100 km south of the Seychelles in March 2012. The Taiwanese captain of the Omani-flagged fishing vessel was killed by the hijackers, who later scuttled the ship and took the hostages to a hideout in Somalia. Two men died from illness while in captivity. The pirates demanded a ransom of millions of dollars from the hostages, most of whom came from impoverished families and poor countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam, China, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Released after prolonged negotiations led by Hostage Support Partners, the Cambodian survivors returned via Nairobi and Manila. Reunited with their families in Phnom Penh, they have been provided with temporary accommodation, medical care and meals by international NGOs.
The former hostages will return to their villages on Thursday, said Tek Sopheak, a program manager at Caritas, a Catholic aid organization.
“We will integrate them into the community on Thursday, and we will accompany them to the community,” Ms. Sopheak said, adding that the men may need long-term physical and mental health treatment.
“We will visit with them at least once a month and offer counseling,” Ms. Sopheak said, explaining that a doctor specializing in psychosocial care would follow up with the men. “We will try our best to help them to have a job or business in the community.”
The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network will also help the men in their efforts to return to their lives in Cambodia, said Tom Holmer, a spokesman for the group.
“We will see what they need and then see what we can do to help,” Mr. Holmer said in an email. “We have already given some money,” he added, and helped provide health checks, meals and accommodation.
Khorn Vanthy, 25, who was shot in the foot for asking the pirates if he could walk outside to relieve himself, said his foot was still swollen from the bullet wound.
“I can’t forget my suffering. Even if I sleep, I still suffer. I can’t forget it,” he said, adding that he would not go abroad to find work again.
Kong Sopheap, Mr. Soksan’s wife, said she was still in disbelief, having accepted years ago that her husband was going to die after he called from captivity and explained his situation.
“When I received his telephone call, he said he was a hostage of pirates and at that time I didn’t think he would survive or come back home,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Hannah Hawkins and Matt Surrusco)