The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday charged a Taiwanese woman with trafficking more than 160 Cambodians to work under terrible conditions on fishing vessels off the coast of Africa, a Ministry of Interior official said.
The owner of Giant Ocean International Fishery Co. Ltd., Lin Yu Shin, 53, was arrested Friday morning in Siem Reap City. Ms. Lin was questioned at the court on Sunday and charged with the unlawful removal of workers, said Chiv Phally, deputy director of the ministry’s anti-human trafficking department.
“She was charged with unlawful removal of persons with purpose, and right now we have 169 victims who have filed complaints, and there are still more victims suffering on fishing boats,” Mr. Phally said, adding that the suspect was put in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison.
“She is involved with labor exploitation, putting workers in debt bondage and forcing them to work 18 hours a day and being tortured.”
Mr. Phally added that authorities have conducted investigations into Ms. Lin since late 2011, when the first case of fishermen being trafficked to Africa surfaced. At the time of her arrest, the suspect was selling souvenirs at the Siem Reap night market. Mr. Phally also said that the suspect had once changed her name, apparently to hide her identity.
“She changed her name from Lin Li Chen. After she was in Taiwan for a period and she came back and had changed her name to Lin Yu Shin,” Mr. Phally said.
Giant Ocean was initially registered with the Ministry of Labor as a recruitment agency that would send Cambodians to work in Japan. However, once the firm began operations in December 2009, it began sending workers to fishing trawlers off the coasts of Senegal and South Africa.
According to a letter sent from the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA) to the Ministry of Labor in February 2012, Giant Ocean lost its membership in the association for “violating the ethics of ACRA” and “for sending workers to work in countries where they are not permitted.”
Moeun Tola, labor program head for the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)—which has repatriated 19 fishermen trafficked by Giant Ocean—said Ms. Lin’s agency continued working out of Siem Reap after being disbanded by the Ministry of Labor and ACRA in late 2011.
“We have a weak legal system here when it comes to recruitment agencies and enforcement. The implementation of the law is also weak,” Mr. Tola said. CLEC estimates that about 1,000 people have been trafficked through Ms. Lin’s firm to work on fishing trawlers.
(Additional reporting by Dene-Hern Chen)
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