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Back from Work Abroad, Migrants Recount Abuse


Starved, beaten with stingray tails and forced to work day and night or be cast overboard, fishing boat workers returning from Cambodia after a stint in a Malaysian jails say they will never work as illegal migrants again.

"I will not do it again. I will not go again," said Kong Saet, after returning from work on a Thai fishing boat. "I was seriously mistreated."

Thousands of Cambodians leave the country each year seeking employment in neighboring countries, often illegally. Many of them find little more than cruelty, especially on Thai fishing boats notorious for Shanghaiing Cambodian and Burmese migrants and working them like slaves.

Kong Saet was among a fishing crew arrested by the Indonesian navy. He was turned over to Malaysian authorities and spent three months in jail before being deported to Cambodia.

Kong Saet described merciless conditions aboard the fishing boat, where workers were beaten and starved and sometimes kicked overboard when they didn't understand the captain or crew. He said he saw two workers jump overboard and cling to floating oil barrels. They are still missing.

Pov Navuth, an aid worker for Caram, a group dedicated to helping migrant workers, said more than 180,000 Cambodian laborers work in Thailand. His group helped repatriate 32 workers, including Kong Saet.

Kong Saet was lucky to make it home.

Mao Savy's husband left to find work pulling fishing nets and is missing.

"I haven't heard from my husband at all," Mao Savy said. "He is being beaten every day."

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