Stranded in a malarial forest with no road to town, no medical care and no wages, workers recruited to cut trees for the Taiwanese timber company Green Rich Co Ltd said they lived like “animals” at the Koh Kong province work site.
“We looked like animals, and sometimes it brought tears to my eyes to work for that company,” said a 39-year-old man from Kompong Cham province, one of 10 laborers who police escorted from the Green Rich site. They came to the office of the human rights group Licadho in the capital on Tuesday.
“I hoped to make a lot of money before going home, but that was a dream. I am going home with nothing,” said the man, who, like others who have left the site, did not want his name published for fear of future retaliation.
Koh Kong district penal police chief Mom Sovanareth said Monday he helped workers leave the Green Rich plantation inside Botum Sakor National Park, while scores more hiked through the forest to National Route 4. Hundreds of workers remain at the site, where the company plans to clear forest and grow acacia for paper production.
“I had to borrow money from the company to buy food, which was very expensive,” said a
36-year-old laborer, also from Kompong Cham. The nearest town was a boat ride away, he said, making food deliveries costly.
Workers alleged that managers didn’t follow through on promises of regular wages and medical care.
Paul Yu, a Green Rich consultant who visited the site earlier this month, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment Wednesday, and a man who answered the phone at Green Rich’s listed office number in Phnom Penh said it was not the company’s office.