SIHANOUKVILLE (AFP) – The death toll from a capsized boat off Cambodia’s coast rose to three Chinese nationals yesterday, with a further nine rescued in Vietnamese waters and eight still missing, Cambodian authorities said.
The vessel with 41 Chinese people on board got into difficulties near Sihanoukville on Thursday.
It was carrying migrants from China who had been promised work.
Spokesman for Cambodia’s Preah Sihanouk provincial administration Kheang Phearom told AFP that rescue teams recovered two more bodies yesterday, bringing the death toll to three.
Eight people remain missing, he said.
Cambodian authorities had rescued 21 people on Friday.
Meanwhile, a Vietnamese border guard on duty in Kien Giang province told AFP that a fishing vessel had rescued nine Chinese nationals in Vietnamese waters near Phu Quoc island on Friday.
Chinese survivors recovering from the ordeal at a hospital in Sihanoukville yesterday said they had no idea they were headed for Cambodia, adding that their mobile phones had been confiscated.
Zhu Pingfan, 41, from Hunan province, said he had been lured into undertaking the voyage with the promise of a wage of up to USD2,800 for a 20-day fishing trip.
He said he wasn’t sure he would survive after the boat ran into trouble.
“I felt hopeless when I was in the sea,” he told AFP.
The stranded passengers spotted other boats in the water but they were too far away and did not hear their cries for help until a third vessel passed on Friday.
Another survivor from Hunan said she had been encouraged by her employer to move to a bigger Chinese city and had no idea she was headed for Southeast Asia.
“I think I will never get on a boat again in the future,” Huang Qian, 20, told AFP.
She said their vessel left China’s Guangdong province on September 10 but food ran out on day four and after a week there was no water.
On day 10 they were transferred to a different boat which had two packets of instant noodles and limited water, she added.
She said the wooden boat capsized because water had leaked into the engine.
“We floated in the sea for two days,” she said. “We sat on an ice bucket, floating. Later we saw a fishing boat, so we called for help and they threw rope to us.”
Cambodian authorities have been trying to crackdown on human-trafficking networks following widespread reports of people from other Southeast Asian countries being tricked into migrating for job opportunities billed as lucrative.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime regional representative Jeremy Douglas said the stretch of coastline had long been a notorious trafficking route for timber and drugs.
“I don’t think the (criminal) networks are going to pause,” he told AFP.
“But I think the authorities are going to take this more seriously because there is a lot of focus and attention.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing was in close contact with Cambodian officials about the incident.
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s immigration department said 230 foreigners, mostly Vietnamese, were deported from the kingdom Friday after they were detained for illegal entry, overstaying or other visa violations.