The Cambodian Embassy in Indonesia is working to repatriate 54 Cambodians who were detained for illegal fishing off the Indonesian island of Pontianak, officials said on Monday.
Chum Sounry, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Indonesian authorities discovered 150 foreign fishermen—including 54 Cambodians—working on Thai-owned fishing boats in mid-April.
“Our embassy went to see them on Friday, and they are working with the [International Organization for Migration] to repatriate them as soon as possible,” Mr. Sounry said.
“We can’t settle this in one or two days. We need time to work on the issue,” he said.
Mr. Sounry said there was no evidence to suggest the workers had been mistreated or trafficked, in contrast to many cases of fishermen laboring on foreign vessels.
Men Yun, a 45-year-old fisherman from Siem Reap province who is among those set to be repatriated, said on Monday he had been working on Thai fishing boats for four to five years.
“I came to work as a fisherman on Thai boats in Malaysia…but was arrested by Indonesian authorities for illegal fishing in Indonesia’s sea,” he said by telephone from Pontianak Island.
“I was on this Thai fishing boat for four months and was arrested by Indonesian authorities on April 12,” he said.
He added that the boats had permission to fish in Malaysian territory but had drifted into illegal waters. Work on the boat was erratic but relatively well paid, he said.
“Sometimes we work a full day, sometimes not. It was not regular,” Mr. Yun said. “They gave me 9,000 Baht [about $258] per month.”
The majority of fishermen working on the same boat as Mr. Yun were his compatriots and had taken on the work voluntarily, he said, with 29 of the 32 crew members being Cambodian nationals.
“I ask all organizations and institutions to please help the 54 Cambodian fishermen to be repatriated home as soon as possible,” Mr. Yun said.