Three Cambodian men who were trafficked and forced to work in the Thai fishing industry were repatriated from Indonesia where their fishing boats had docked, a human rights worker said yesterday.
Mom Sokchar, program manager at Legal Support for Children and Women, said his organization had been trying to bring the men, aged 26 to 38, back since February, and had only been able to locate them after they had called their families from Indonesia.
The Cambodian Embassy in Jakarta and the International Organization for Migration had helped repatriate the men, who landed in Phnom Penh last week, he said.
“The Embassy facilitated the travel documents and IOM paid the travel fee,” Mr Sokchar said, explaining that the men were part of a group of 18 men from Kampot province, who were smuggled into Thailand by two brokers in September 2010, after which they were sold to Thai fishing boat captains.
Mr Sokchar said four of them managed to escape, while another man was repatriated from Malaysia recently, adding that his organization was still searching for the 10 missing men.
The repatriated men could not be reached for comment.
Chiv Phally, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking Department, said police were closing in on those behind the trafficking ring.
“We are hunting for a broker whose identity we already know, and we are searching for two more brokers,” he said.
Describing the men’s ordeal, Mr Phally said, “They had been sold to the fishing boat owners. They [boat owner] told them, ‘Do you want to have your arms cut, be killed or get in the boat?’”
On July 29, seven Cambodians were repatriated from Malaysia after also having spent eight months on a Thai fishing trawler under hellish conditions, such as extreme working hours, beatings and even murder.
The unregulated Thai fishing industry is a hotbed of human trafficking, according to human rights groups, and tens of thousands of Cambodian and Burmese migrants face severe abuse on the high seas every year.
© 2011 – 2014, Paul Vrieze. All rights reserved.