5 Return From Forced Labor on Thai Boat

Five Cambodian fishermen who say they were held in forced servitude on a Thai fishing boat arrived at Pochentong Airport on Saturday, according to one of the fishermen and an NGO official.

The five men arrived home after a 23-month ordeal that ended when the human rights group Licadho and the Inter­national Organization for Mi­gra­tion sponsored their return.

One of the fishermen, Chan Choeun, 35, of Banteay Mean­chey province, said that he and seven other men went to work on a Thai fishing boat in June 2000. From there, he said, they were sent to another Thai boat to fish in waters near Indonesian territorial waters, where they were taken captive.

“We swam to escape from the Thai fishing boat and were in the Indonesian sea for three days and three nights when we met an Indonesian fishing boat. They helped us and sent us to their police after the Thai [fishing] boss shot three of our Khmer colleagues dead in the water,” Chan Choeun said.

“We were helped by the IOM and Licadho,” Chan Choeun said. “They both collected $1,865 to buy plane tickets for us to come back to our homeland.”

Naly Pilorge, deputy director of Licadho, confirmed the men’s return.

“The case was brought to our attention in September. IOM In­do­nesia was contacted and confirmed their detention,” Pilorge said.

“Finances were needed to bring them back, so Licadho raised funds from consultants and friends,” she said.

“I appeal to our people to be careful of Thai businessmen who cheat you. Don’t go, because they will torture you and make you a slave like us,” Chan Choeun said.


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