Deaths on sea in Vietnam spark trafficking alarm

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

September 30, 2022

By UCA News Reporter

Cambodia urges China to do more in combatting human trafficking

The death toll from a boat that capsized at sea on the Cambodian-Vietnamese maritime border has risen to 11 after eight bodies were washed ashore on an island off the south coast, officials said.

The incident has been tied to human traffickers and is under investigation.

Forty-one Chinese were reported lost at sea almost a week ago after their boat, believed to be headed for Sihanoukville on Cambodia’s south coast, got into trouble.

Authorities from both countries launched a search, rescued 30 people, and reported another three people had died. A statement released from city hall in Sihanoukville this morning said the missing eight had been found on a beach, on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc.

A separate statement from Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security said two of the bodies were carrying Chinese identification papers in their pockets.

“The bodies found were suspected to be related to the sunken boat,” the ministry said, adding they were discovered around 10:00 am on Thursday morning and that their decomposing state was “quite consistent” with the timing of the capsizing about a week ago in the Cambodian sea.

A Cambodian Interior Ministry spokesman said authorities arrested six people after a human trafficking case was launched in response to the sinking. But it was unclear if the 41 Chinese were being trafficked into Cambodia or were connected to criminal syndicates.

Cambodia has been struck by a wave of human trafficking, blamed on Chinese criminal syndicates who authorities say have duped thousands of people into traveling to Cambodia where they are then forced to work in telecom frauds.

People from as far as Pakistan and Mongolia to Taiwan and Indonesia have been transported to Sihanoukville by sea, chartered flights, and overland.

In a recent meeting between Cambodia’s Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian, Beijing was urged to do more and prosecute ringleaders involved in human trafficking, sex trafficking, and illegal employment.

“Cambodia is a country affected by the exploitation of some loopholes by syndicates to commit crimes. We are thankful for the special cooperation with the Chinese in preventing and suppressing such crimes in the past,” Sar Kheng said in a statement.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also been urged to establish a human trafficking desk to be staffed by police from each of its 10 states; to collect and share information, crack down on syndicates and stop people from traveling abroad for fake jobs.

Amid the latest crackdown on human traffickers, authorities said they had deported 66 foreigners for breaching immigration laws, and that five Indian youths and 64 Thais, and a Nigerian had been repatriated after being duped into accepting fake jobs.