Eight Cambodians who were allegedly forced into slavery on a Thai fishing boat, then stranded in India after serving six-month jail terms there, will be repatriated on Wednesday, Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kuy Kuong said yesterday.
The men crossed into Thailand from Banteay Meanchey province’s Malai district on Sept 26 after being promised $9-a-day construction jobs.
Instead, they were drugged by their Thai boss, Mr Kuong said, and “forced onto a fishing boat to work at sea,” until they were arrested in Indian waters.
Mr Kuong said the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand is also trying to secure the return of approximately 30 alleged trafficking victims—including 17 women—who had been working in a fish factory in Thailand.
The Cambodian military border commission reported on June 2 that the workers were being held at a Thai government facility for illegal immigrants. Embassy officials contacted the Thai government yesterday, Mr Kuong said, but “I’m not sure if, or when, these…Cambodian workers will return.”
Suom Chankea, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said he has noticed an increase in the number of people traveling to Thailand for work in recent years, claiming that poverty and a lack of local jobs forced many people to turn to trafficking networks.
“Cambodia has become a country that exports workers to foreign countries,” he said.