11 July 2024

The death toll from a capsized boat off Cambodia’s coast rose to three Chinese nationals on Saturday, with a further nine rescued in Vietnamese waters and eight still missing, Cambodian authorities said.

The boat with 41 Chinese people on board got into difficulties off Sihanoukville on Thursday.

Kheang Phearom, the spokesman for Cambodia’s Preah Sihanouk provincial administration, told AFP rescue teams recovered two more bodies on Saturday, 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 at the An Thoi station in Kien Giang province told AFP that a fishing vessel had rescued nine Chinese nationals in Vietnamese waters near Phu Quoc island on Friday.

The formerly sleepy fishing village of Sihanoukville in Cambodia in recent years has been transformed into a casino hub following a Chinese investment boom.

There have been multiple recent reports of Chinese workers being duped into working in casinos or online scam operations in Sihanoukville and prevented from leaving.

Cambodian authorities have been trying to crack down on human-smuggling and trafficking networks following widespread reports of people from other Southeast Asian countries being tricked into migrating for job opportunities billed as lucrative.

The group had left China by speedboat on September 11, and a week later were transferred to a wooden boat with two Cambodian crew members in international waters, according to Cambodian authorities.

That vessel began to sink after breaking down on Thursday. The two Cambodians were rescued by another vessel but the others were abandoned.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing was in close contact with Cambodian officials about the incident.