Pursat Men: We Were Taken to Somalia, Cheated

Members of a group of 18 Cam­bodians, mostly from Pursat pro­vince, claimed Tuesday that a Thai firm took them to the East African nation of Somalia under false pretenses in January, where they worked for eight months without salary.

Two members of the group said they were led to believe that they were being taken to work at a factory in Thailand, but once they arrived there, the firm pressured them to work as fishermen in Somalia.

The men were in Thailand illegally, and were told that if they did not go to Somalia, they would have to pay the firm to obtain pass­ports and visas for Thailand, they said.

They added that they eventually demanded that the Thai firm send them back in September.

“More than 50 Cambodian men are still working in Somalia,” Sok Seng, 25, said.

Sok Seng said he and 17 other men returned to Cambodia on Sept 5 through Poipet’s checkpoint.

He claimed the men had originally been promised work in a Thai factory by Pursat provincial Sam Rainsy Party representative Heng Chanthoun.

Eng Hou, 24, said he worked with some 74 Cambodians in different fishing ships off the Somali coast for eight months.

Heng Chanthoun confirmed that about 100 Cambodians made a contract, with his assistance, to work with the Thai firm.

“I do not make any money, but I want to help poor people, and this is my party’s principle,” he said. “The contract was done among them, not involving me.”

“Cambodian workers in So­mal­ia and Thai businessmen told me that these men escaped from working, that they are lazy and threatened to burn a Thai ship,” he added.

Ngeth Theavy, Pursat coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said four of the men have come to him for help.

“They told us they were kicked, beaten with sticks,” in Somalia, he said. “Some tried to escape but they were captured and tortured.”

Hem Bunny, director of the Min­istry of Labor’s employment de­partment, said he was unaware of the case.


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