Five Cambodian men are being detained in Malaysia after having been trafficked there from Thailand, local rights group Licadho and a member of one of the victim’s families said Tuesday.
Four men from Takeo left home in October with the understanding that they would find jobs in Thailand. However, shortly after arriving in Bangkok the men were locked in a guesthouse and then sold to a Thai businessman who owned a fishing boat, Licadho investigator Chrea Sreang said.
The men, ranging in age from 20 to 37, worked for several months without pay until they escaped in March when the boat docked in a Malaysian port, Chrea Sreang said.
Seeking refuge in Malaysia, the four men met up with a fifth man from Battambang province. The men were then able to contact family members in Cambodia who informed Licadho of their plight.
Chrea Sreang said Licadho lost contact with the men between March 24 and 31, but then received information from an NGO in Malaysia and the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia that the authorities had detained them.
The Cambodian embassy requested the men’s release, but Malaysian authorities said they needed more time to conduct further investigation, Chrea Sreang said.
“They are really victims of human trafficking…not illegal migrants. So, I am 80 percent hopeful that the Malaysian government will release them,” he said Tuesday.
Malaysian Embassy Third Secretary Mohd Fadzil said that he had no information about this case.
Mao Eng, the uncle of one of the detained men from Takeo, said his nephew, Chea Vy, was a victim of trafficking.
“Before he left the province, my nephew was actually clearly aware that several men from our commune have been misinformed and disappeared when they were brought to work in Thailand,” Mao Eng said, adding that his nephew trusted the ringleader, who was a former resident of their commune.
“I now beg the government and NGOs to please help my nephew and other Cambodian men who are trafficked into Malaysia,” he said.
Bit Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said Monday that he was not aware of the case and referred questions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, officials from which could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)