Fifteen Cambodians were among the crew of a Thai fishing trawler that sank after being captured by pirates off the coast of Yemen last week, Thai media reported on Saturday.
The Royal Thai Navy patrol vessel HTMS Pattani plucked 23 crewmembers of the Sirichai Nava 11, a Yemen-flagged vessel owned by the Thai fishing company Sirichai, out of the water on Wednesday, according to the Bangkok Post.
The ship was apparently captured by Somali pirates the day before, and was being taken towards the Somali coast when it was attacked and sunk by an as-yet-unknown vessel, the paper reported.
The 15 Cambodians, along with seven Thais and a Yemeni police officer, were found floating in the water the next day by a helicopter from the Pattani, the paper claimed, adding that one Thai sailor and three other Yemeni police officers were still missing.
In January, news agency Reuters reported that Somali gunmen had hijacked a Cambodian vessel, the MV Layla-S, off the coast of Kenya. However it was later discovered that port authorities had held the ship, not pirates.
Chan Soveth, program officer with the human rights group Adhoc, said his organization received many complaints from men who go to work on fishing boats in Thailand and complain of the conditions they are forced to endure.
“We get so many complaints from workers in Thailand about the violations to the people” on fishing boats, he said.
In 2005, 18 men from Pursat province claimed they were tricked by a Thai recruitment firm into working as fishermen in the waters off Somalia. They were eventually returned to Cambodia after eight months.
More recently, eight Banteay Meanchey men returned to Cambodia in July after they were arrested in Indian waters while working on a Thai fishing trawler.
The men claimed they had gone to Thailand on the promise of $9-a-day construction jobs but were instead forced to work on a fishing boat. They then spent six months in an Indian jail before finally returning home.