The Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking police arrested a Taiwanese woman on Friday who they believe is responsible for trafficking Cambodians to work in slave-like conditions on fishing vessels off the coast of Africa.
The 53-year-old Lin Yu Shin, owner of Giant Ocean International Fishery and Co. Ltd., was arrested Friday morning in Siem Reap City, said Major General Pol Phithey, director of the anti-human trafficking department.
“She was arrested based on an arrest warrant issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court…. It is an extremely big case and we are interrogating her,” Maj. Gen. Phithey said, adding that he had no figures on hand showing how many men were trafficked by Ms. Shin.
NGOs on Friday estimated that Ms. Shin could have trafficked about 1,000 men to ships working around Africa. More than 200 complaints have been filed by family members of missing fishermen with rights groups and the Labor Ministry.
Although Giant Ocean had registered with the Ministry of Labor as a recruitment agency that would send workers to Japan, where they were promised a salary of about $250 per month, some Cambodians found themselves in Africa instead, said Joel Preston, a consultant for the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC).
“So far, we have repatriated 19 men, and we’ve received 34 complaints, but it’s extremely difficult,” Mr. Preston said, adding that some of the men were rescued from ships in Senegal, Mauritius and most recently from the port in Cape Town.
“The men who were repatriated said that there must be at least another 1,000,” he said, adding that CLEC is working on the cases of at least another 60 individuals, who were sold by Ms. Shin, before Giant Ocean was shut down by the government after several reports of human trafficking.
Two men who were repatriated in March from Cape Town described working conditions during their eight months on the ships as extremely harsh and said that they were unpaid, according to Mr. Preston.
“Once they got on a boat, they worked around 20 hours a day and they weren’t given enough food. They’ve also experienced violence and were not given any money,” he said, adding that all repatriated men described very similar conditions.
Their repatriation is extremely difficult, Mr. Preston said.
“These are countries where there are no cooperation, no contacts, no established relationships. And the time frame you usually have to rescue them is three days,” as the trafficked men’s ships would then leave for another eight months at sea.