Fishermen Home After Ordeal on Thai Boat

Twenty Cambodian fishermen were repatriated Wednesday after recovering in Indonesia, where they were rescued from a Thai trawler they were forced to work on, according to statements from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The men arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport at about 5 p.m. to a throng of reporters, but were rushed into two waiting vans without stopping to answer any questions.

Cambodian fishermen arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport on Wednesday, following their rescue from a Thai fishing boat off the coast of Indonesia. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Cambodian fishermen arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport on Wednesday, following their rescue from a Thai fishing boat off the coast of Indonesia. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Sitting in the back of one of the vans, a man, who identified himself only as Kan, 27, said he had worked at sea for one year and had been held on an island for three months.

Life on the boat “was very hard because we did not have much time to sleep,” Mr. Kan said, adding that he was from Siem Reap province as the vans drove off.

In a statement released October 24, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the 20 men were rescued in an operation conducted by Indonesian authorities and the Cambodian Embassy in Jakarta.

Further details of the men’s plight have not been forthcoming.

On Wednesday, the ministry released another statement announcing their return but again gave no insight into their ordeal.

Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday’s statement said that the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which helped to repatriate the men, pledged to give each of them $1,000 to assist in their reintegration.

Brett Dickson, a program manager at IOM Cambodia, said IOM had been housing the men in Indonesia while they waited for proper documentation to return to Cambodia.

Mr. Dickson said he was not authorized to give further details.

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