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Group Returns After Fishing Boat Ordeal

Eight fishermen who had been trafficked on a Thai fishing boat were returned to Cambodia on Tuesday following their arrest off Indian waters.

One of the victims, Nob Chet, 35, said he was happy to be back after his ordeal. He said he was lured onto the boat by an intermediary who promised him more than $100 per month in salary.

The men came from Banteay Meanchey province, where they say a middleman approached them in September 2009 with promises of work for money they could not otherwise make.

The middleman “said the boat would go and come back on the same day,” Nob Chet said on his return at Phnom Penh International Airport Tuesday. “He said he spent a few years working as a fisherman and that he had enough money now to buy a car.”

Soon, the men say, they were caught in a trafficking network, denied their salaries until they jumped ship and were arrested. They were held by Indian authorities for six months and put under surveillance for another three months.

Eventually, some of the men were able to contact their families, who contacted local organizations, said Kim Sovanna, deputy director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ legal department.

“And then we reformed our respective embassy, and we contacted the Indian authorities to settle the matter,” he said.

Police say they are now looking for these traffickers and others, who operate in India, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.