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Cambodia Fishermen Return Home After Forced Labor in Indonesia

File - Workers sort fish at a fishing port in North Jakarta, Indonesia.

Fifty-nine Cambodian fisherman, who were forced to work on fishing vessels around Indonesia, have returned home with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The fishermen arrived Monday at Phnom Penh International Airport, but did not make any comments before leaving via a side exit and avoiding a group of journalists waiting for them.

Indonesian authorities have rescued about 300 fishermen from indentured service in recent months.

They are often tricked by middlemen as they look for work in Thailand and other countries, finding themselves trapped on fishing boats with little or no pay in dire conditions.

Cambodian officials say they are continuing talks with Indonesia on the potential return of more fishermen.

The International Organization for Migration has said 36 Cambodian workers remain on Indonesia’s far eastern Benjina Island.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told VOA Khmer that Cambodian officials will meet with the IOM in hopes of interviewing the 36 fishermen. He added that Indonesian authorities recently found another 32 Cambodian fishermen and there may be others.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.