Vannak Anan Prum and Hillary Clinton
Cambodian Vannak Anan Prum was subject to starvation and torture when he became victim to the human trafficking trend, suffering years of forced labour on Thailand fishing boats and on a Malaysian plantation.
Now, Prum’s efforts to raise awareness of the human trafficking trend through several drawings that describe the horrible experience he went through, have branded him a hero by the U.S. State Department, who recently honoured him as one of 10 "Heroes Working to End Modern-Day Slavery."
The award was presented to Prum by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "in recognition of his amazing courage to escape slavery and his remarkable activism to end human trafficking."
"I want everyone to know about this. Through my pictures, I want to warn all cross-border migrant workers to be careful," Prum said
"Even if they do not keep my own story in mind, they will at least have an idea of what life is like for people trafficked onto boats for forced labour."
Prum was one of 100,000 Cambodian workers who went on an illegal search for a better life in Thailand, but instead found himself at the mercy of human smugglers.
"Life on the fishing boat means working day and night nonstop. If there is time for a break, it is only very short. The workers face danger all the time working on the boat," he said
Three years went by before Prum was able to escape, jumping off his ship and swimming to the Malaysian shore. There, Prum expected to be picked up by police who would then take him back to Cambodia. Instead, he found himself sold again, this time to an oil palm plantation.
"While I was waiting at the police office, a man wearing sunglasses came in and took me to a Chinese man, who then gave some money to the man with sunglasses," he said
Prum’s saving grace came when he was sent to jail for getting into a fight with other plantation workers. From jail, he was able to contact the Cambodian NGO workers, who ensured he was returned to his home country.
Desperate to raise awareness of the human rights violations that can befall innocent people, Prum began to draw in order to describe his experiences and warn against the human trafficking trend that currently operates within the Southeast Asian fishing industry.