News / Asia

Human Traffickers Target Young Cambodian Men for Fishing Industry

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

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid