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Fishermen Return Home After Ordeal in Indonesian Waters

Clothes bags of migrants workers, who are sent back to Cambodia, are seen being transported via van separately after they have exited from the VIP gate at Phnom Penh International Airport on May 11th 2015. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

Fifty-nine Cambodian fisherman who were cheated and forced to work on fishing vessels around Indonesia returned to Cambodia on Monday, helped by the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After their arrival Monday afternoon at Phnom Penh International Airport, they were transported into the city via a VIP airport exit, avoiding a group of journalists awaiting them.

There were 59 in all, officials said later. Some 300 fishermen have been rescued 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 continued to discuss with Indonesia the potential return of others like them.

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

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA Khmer that Cambodian officials will meet with the IOM in hopes of interviewing those 36.

Aside from them, another 32 fishermen have been found by Indonesian authorities recently, and there may be others, he said.