Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Insufficient evidence in US trafficking case

Insufficient evidence in US trafficking case

Migrant workers repair a net on a Thai fishing boat in Thailand’s Rayong province. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP
Migrant workers repair a net on a Thai fishing boat in Thailand’s Rayong province. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

Insufficient evidence in US trafficking case

A United States district court has dismissed a case against two Thai and two American companies filed by seven Cambodians allegedly trafficked and forced to work on fishing boats.

Central District Court of California Judge John F Walter ruled on Thursday to toss out the case, with his earlier arguments contending that there was not enough evidence of a connection between companies in the US and the alleged trafficking.

The complaint was filed in June 2016 and alleges the seven Cambodians – two women and five men – were lured to Thailand under false promises and held in extreme working conditions for Thai Phatthana Seafood company in 2011 and 2012. The firm exports to the US.

The complaint details the workers’ arduous migration to Thailand, in which they were allegedly “packed like sardines in a pick-up truck” and continually threatened with violence. After arriving, the complaint alleged, conditions remained dire, with workers facing food shortages.

“[S]ome workers could not afford to purchase enough food and were constantly hungry. For example, Plaintiffs Ban and Nakry looked for food growing in nearby fields and found snails and fish washed up on the shore in order to eat,” it continues.

When workers tried to leave, they were allegedly told they couldn’t get their confiscated passports back until they had paid off exorbitant recruitment fees, out of reach given their salaries were well below what they were allegedly promised.

The complaint contended that US companies Rubicon Resources, and Wales & Co Universe – along with Thai companies Phatthana Seafood and SS Frozen Food – were responsible for peonage, forced labour, involuntary servitude and human trafficking, as they were “participants in a joint venture that in violation of US law knowingly profited from the import and sale of shrimp and seafood produced with trafficked labor”.

In the December 21 minutes preceding the judgment, Judge Walter argued there wasn’t sufficient proof to establish a connection between the US firms and trafficking to warrant the court’s jurisdiction over the case.

The complaint also implicates Cambodian recruitment agency CDM Trading Manpower in arranging the migration and extorting workers. Lim Vouchna, an officer of the company, said CDM Trading Manpower no longer worked with Phatthana.

Dy The Hoya, of labour rights organisation Central, said judicial processes were “very complicated” for victims of human trafficking and that companies often won court cases due to inequality of resources. “It’s not fair for the workers,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be