More Details Emerge on Trafficked Fishermen

A recruitment agency whose owner was charged Sunday with trafficking Cambodians to work on fishing vessels off the coast of Africa is part of a network of companies in at least three other countries, the former head of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA) said Monday.

The owner of Giant Ocean International Fishery Co. Ltd., Lin Yu Shin, 53, was arrested last week in Siem Reap City and charged with trafficking Cambodians to work under dire conditions on trawlers off the coasts of South Africa, Mauritius and Senegal. Investigations into Ms. Lin’s agency have been ongoing since late 2011, when complaints from fishermen’s families began coming in to ACRA as well as the ministries of labor and interior.

An Bun Hak, the former president of ACRA—which began investigating Giant Ocean’s operations during his presidency in October 2011 and expelled the company from the association in February 2012 for its violations—said Monday that Giant Ocean was part of a much bigger operation with a presence throughout the region.

“During our investigation, [we found that] there was a company in Singapore involved, in Hong Kong and in Taiwan,” Mr. Bun Hak said, adding that he could not remember the companies’ names.

Instead of going through the legal process of requesting a working visa and a passport from the ministries of labor and interior, Ms. Lin was sending workers on tourist visas to Singapore and Hong Kong, where they later illegally boarded fishing trawlers headed for Africa, he said.

Mr. Bun Hak also said that her operation was already in full swing for several years before she received her license from the Ministry of Labor in December 2009.

So far, the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), a legal aid organization, has received 34 complaints from fishermen trafficked by Giant Ocean and repatriated 19 others.

CLEC estimates that Ms. Lin’s company is responsible for trafficking about 1,000 people.

(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)

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