Five "enslaved" Cambodian fishermen rescued after jumping overboard

Feb 5, 2010, 3:18 GMT

Phnom Penh - Five Cambodian fishermen were rescued near East Timor after jumping overboard to escape reportedly slave-like conditions on board a Thai fishing vessel, local media said Friday.

Chan Soveth, an investigator for Adhoc, a human rights group in Cambodia, said the incident took place in open water on January 21 after a fellow Cambodian died and his body was thrown overboard.

'When they saw the fisherman's dead body thrown into the sea, they were frightened, and that's why they jumped into the sea to flee,' he told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

John McGeoghan, project coordinator at the International Organization for Migration in Phnom Penh, said it appeared the men had been trafficked.

'Preliminary interviews with them suggest that they were promised construction jobs in Thailand,' he told the newspaper. 'Others were promised jobs carrying fish on shore from the boats in Thailand.'

McGeoghan added that the men were then told they would be at sea for just a few months before learning later that they would stay on board for four years.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is working with authorities in East Timor to have the five men, ages 26 to 35, sent home.

They were pulled from the water by East Timorese fishermen.

Thousands of Cambodians head to neighbouring Thailand each year looking for work in a variety of industries. An unknown number end up working on Thai fishing boats, often in appalling conditions with little or no pay.


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