Cambodia to Repatriate Trafficking Victims

Cambodia will bring home four men who were sold as slaves to a South African fishing company.

traffickingraid-305.jpg Police officers speak to a group of girls after they were rescued from a human trafficking ring, Oct. 11, 2011.

Cambodia is working with the South African government to repatriate four Cambodian men who worked as slaves for years after being sold to a fishing company, highlighting the plight of impoverished Southeast Asians who commonly fall prey to human traffickers while seeking work abroad.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Kong said in a statement Friday that the four men were rescued from South African firm Giant Ocean International Fishery Co. Ltd., where they had worked for “several years.”

The group included Seng Sokha, 25, from Kampot province, Phan Chanden, 34, from Kompong Cham province, Chea Nara, 24, also from Kompong Cham, and Chap Sinath, 21, from Siem Reap province.

“The Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok is working with the South African government to provide the men with temporarily shelters until they are repatriated to Cambodia,” the statement read.

The ministry did not provide any details about how the four Cambodians ended up in South Africa, their current state of health, or the abuses they faced while held captive by the fishing company.

Maids in Malaysia

News of the trafficking victims’ rescue came as anti-human trafficking group CARAM-Cambodia urged women who have been abused while working in Malaysia as maids to work with their organization to prosecute their former employers.

CARAM-Cambodia Executive Director Ya Navuth made the appeal Friday after announcing the successful prosecution of a Malaysian employer who had withheld the salary of a Cambodian maid for more than two years.

Ya Navuth said that the 30-year-old maid, whose name was withheld for reasons of privacy, was awarded U.S. $1,400 for her two years of salary through an appeals court in Malaysia.

“Winning this case in Malaysia has set a precedent for those who endure abuse from their employers,” he said.

“The victims must inform the Cambodian Embassy and the nongovernmental organizations that are working against human trafficking of their situations. When we have information, we can help.”

Ya Navuth said that the victim will be repatriated to Cambodia soon.

Little recourse

Maids are common in middle-class households in Malaysia due to a large migrant labor population who total up to 2 million people or 21 percent of the country's workforce.

Women’s rights groups say there are no accurate statistics of how many Cambodian women are currently working in Malaysia, though some estimates put the number at around 50,000.

They say that these young women typically have little recourse against abuse through local law enforcement because they do not speak the local language or have entered the country illegally.

In addition, labor firms that recruit them in Cambodia rarely provide support once the women are employed.

Earlier this month, a 28-year-old maid was admitted to a hospital in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur after suffering a broken jaw and being tortured by the couple that hired her to clean their home.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced in June that the Cambodian Embassy rescued eight fishing boat workers and four maids who had been trafficked to Malaysia where they had been forced to work for several years.

And in March, a Malaysian couple was charged with killing domestic worker Mey Sichan, 24, who was allegedly subjected to repeated physical abuse and starved.

Cambodia imposed a freeze on sending domestic workers in October last year after activists exposed dozens of cases of sexual abuse, overwork, and exploitation among Cambodian maids in Malaysian homes.

The U.S. State Department ranked Cambodia a Tier 2 country in its 2012 Trafficking in Persons report, saying the government had failed to make progress in prosecuting human traffickers and protecting trafficking victims.

Reported by Samean Yun and Ouk Savborey for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Add comment

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

View Full Site