News / Asia

Human Traffickers Target Young Cambodian Men for Fishing Industry

Thai fishing boat (file photo)
Thai fishing boat (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Robert Carmichael

Women and children are commonly believed to be the main targets of human traffickers. But in Cambodia, scores of men have recounted stories of modern-day slavery on board Thai and Malaysian fishing boats.

Manfred Hornung, a legal adviser with the Cambodian human rights group Licadho, says that although figures are very limited, it is possible thousands of Cambodian men have been trafficked onto regional fishing boats in recent years.

The group has interviewed more than 60 men who were trafficked onto Thai fishing boats since 2007. Their stories typically begin the same way.

"Normally these young fellows are approached by a local broker who works through connections in a commune or a village and approaches a group of young males to convince them to go to Thailand," said Hornung. "So, in most cases this broker won't tell these youngsters that they have to work on a fishing boat."

Instead they are promised jobs in construction or on plantations, then smuggled into Thailand. According to Hornung, once there, some are taken to a fishing port, where they are locked in guesthouses and eventually sold to fishing boat captains.

Conditions on the worst boats amount to nothing less than slavery said Hornung. And the young men have few ways to escape since the captain and Thai crew are often armed.

Victims say they get two or three hours sleep each day, are beaten and drugged to keep them working. Human rights advisor Hornung has heard reports that men who fell ill were thrown overboard.

Declining fish stocks close to land mean many boats spend months at sea, docking only with mother-ships to unload their catch. That makes escape impossible.

"In a current case, we have one person who stayed consecutively for three years on a boat without seeing land," said Hornung. "He was basically sold on the high seas from boat to boat over a three-year period. And these cases are not infrequent."

Hornung estimates the range of time people are enslaved on boats runs anywhere from three months to several years. And he adds none of the 60 men the group Licadho interviewed received any pay for their work.

Experts say Cambodia's poverty drives most of the trafficking in the country.

Louise Rose, a victim protection officer for The Asia Foundation, says a survey of 258 Cambodian men - most of whom worked on foreign fishing boats - found that debt had driven half to seek work abroad.  But two other factors were even more significant.

"Lack of food was a huge one," said Rose. "Three-quarters of the men reported not enough food being a motivator for migrating. And the other one that was even higher again - no source of income. That was about 78 percent."

One in five of the men in the Asia Foundation survey said they had worked in slave-like conditions on Thai and Malaysian fishing boats.

Thailand's multi-billion dollar fishing industry demands a supply of cheap labor. And the stories of some Cambodian men indicate unscrupulous agents and ship owners are prepared to meet that need in any way possible.

Anti-trafficking groups say the solution is for regional governments to work harder to protect migrant workers and to prosecute those guilty of abuses.

But that is not happening. In Cambodia, activists say, the laws against trafficking are weak, and until the laws and law enforcement improve, many young men here will remain at risk of forced labor abroad.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs