George Nickels Trafficked into Slavery 01

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Created by George Nickels

Cambodia 19 Feb 2017


Mr. Youn Yum. “When I left Cambodia to try and find work in Thailand I was unaware of the risks involved and how it would change my life forever. One of my friends in the village told me that he and a few others were planning to try and find work in Thailand and that his friend had arranged for somebody to meet us at the border in a few days time. I did not hesitate at the offer and after a few days passed we set off in search of the opportunities that are just over the border. After around three hours of driving we arrived at what we all thought was the border to Thailand and were met by a Khmer man, who told us that he had work for us on a cassava farm, and that we would be earning 4500 THB, around $130 per month each, with a room and food included. Along with six other Khmers, I worked on that farm for one month, seven days a week from morning until night. One day whilst working, we were approached by a Thai man who offered us a higher rate of pay in Thailand as carpenters on a construction site for a very enticing wage of 7000 THB, $200 per month. We spoke between ourselves and were happy with the offer of more money and a change in the style of job, but very confused as we thought that we were already in Thailand, we were in fact actually still in Cambodia working close to the border. We tried to find the farmer who had employed us but he was nowhere to be seen and had fled without paying us any money, so we were left with no choice but to accept the Thai brokers deal and make our way illegally over the border. We were told that there would be a charge for transportation to the construction site but that it could be deducted from our first months’ wage if we liked. We all agreed, and made our way excited by the offer into Thailand. After a very uncomfortable and long drive in the back of an old truck along with 10 other men we arrived at our destination. To my surprise we were not at a construction site, but a very busy sea port. We were told that unfortunately the site was going to be closed for three months and our broker had gone out of his way and had arranged work for us on a fishing boat. As most of us were now indebted to him we were left with no option but to go out to sea. It was only after sailing for two weeks into the middle of the ocean that the six other Cambodians and myself were told that we had been sold to the Thai’s. I complained to the captain and was severely beaten making it virtually impossible to work, eat or sleep. I tried to keep up with the others but could not and was beaten again and again, I thought that they were going to kill me. We sailed deeper into the ocean for another two weeks until I was told that we were now in Indonesian waters. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks to months my health got worse as did the constant beatings that I received for not being able to keep up with the other men. After what seemed like a lifetime, (actually around nine months at sea) we arrived at an Indonesian fishing port. We were marched into a room on the ship by our captors all carrying guns, and told that we would be going out to sea again tomorrow on another boat. I knew then that if I did not try and make my escape soon that the chances of me surviving another journey would be slim. I waited until it was dark and the others were asleep, and made my escape. I crept out of the room and of the boat; I swam to land and hid in the nearby forest until the following morning. I was scared of whom to trust and did not speak any Indonesian or Thai, tired, sick and hungry yet again I had no choice but to risk leaving the forest in hope of finding a way back to my homeland. After sitting in the undergrowth of the forest close to a small dirt track for a long time whilst I conjured up the courage, I saw a young woman and child walking down the track towards me and I made my move. The woman was frightened at first but helped me, giving me food, water and contacting the Indonesian embassy. She told me that I had to get to the nearest police station and that the police would help me. The Indonesian police were very kind men and let me stay within the police station for two weeks until the embassy arranged a emergency visa for me and sent me back to Phnom Penh. My ordeal at sea is over but my health gets worse week by week, I have no strength and cannot find any work in my country, I have a newborn baby a wife and no prospects for the future. Maybe I will try and find work again in Thailand.” Moung commune, Srey Snom District, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.