Frontline Stories

Empty Promises Turned Into New Hopes

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Samnang, 29, lives with his widowed mother and four siblings. They used to make a living by working on their rice fields in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

Being the eldest, Samnang had to work harder to support his family, but his daily income was not enough to feed everyone well. One day, a friend from his village introduced him to a new job in neighbouring Thailand which promised a higher wage. Eventually, in 2010, he travelled to work in Thailand without any legal documentation.

Samnang worked as a construction worker in Bangkok. After several months, he asked about wages, however, the boss did not pay and told him to wait for 6 to 12 months.

“I thought the broker had cheated me, and I had no money to return home,” says Samnang. He spent months going from job to job in order to get a decent wage in Bangkok.

Illegal brokers introduce people to jobs abroad with a promise of higher pay. Usually, brokers target people they know, such as friends of friends and neighbours. They are great in persuading others by providing early ‘benefits’, including loans to the targets’ families, handling transportation and accommodation expenses, as well as a food allowance during relocation.

“Later, my friend and I were introduced to another job as fishermen in Indonesia,” says Samnang. “I illegally migrated to Indonesia because I expected to earn 12,000 Thai bahts (about HK$2,840) per month which could support my family.”

Both of them were transported there to work on a fishing boat. “I got up early at 5 am and took a break for lunch at 11am. I resumed working from 1pm until 5pm, and then from 6pm to 11pm. Sometimes, I had to fix nets until 3am,” Samnang recalls.

After 18 months of work, instead of earning what he had expected, Samnang saw his wages deducted by the broker without reason, as there was never a written contract in place. Samnang was cheated.

“I had wanted to run away from the boat several times, but I feared being attacked by crocodiles swimming near the boat,” Samnang says. With no money to support his family or return home, Samnang felt that hope was lost.

But later, Samsang got hold of the phone number of the Cambodian Embassy in Indonesia and was told to run away. They also had to avoid the local police who would have sent them back to the boat. One day as the boat docked near land, Samnang and several others seized an opportunity and fled to a protection camp, where illegal migrants would receive protection while waiting to be repatriated. Samnang was then flown back to Cambodia.

With the support of the Indonesian and Cambodian governments, World Vision’s End Trafficking in Persons Programme (ETIP) is partnering with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in an initiative against human trafficking which includes integrating survivors back into their home communities.

World Vision provided Samnang with counselling services to deal with the emotional impact suffered from this horrific experience. Staff also visited him at his village and guided him to earn an income in a proper way.

Through the programme, Samnang received technical skills training on fixing engines. World Vision also contributed an electric engine for him to start his own business.

“I really thank World Vision for supporting me. Now I can earn money for myself and my family in my own country,” he says.

Today, Samnang is financially stable and has a small business near his village, earning 40,000 to 60,000 riels (about HK$78 to HK$117) per day, an amount sufficient to feed his family. He is also making plans to marry his girlfriend.

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