Contemporary Abolitionist of the Month: Vannak Anan Prum

By Solveig Haugen,

The fight to end slavery is rooted in history and extends until today. Each month we profile some of the brave men and women, both contemporary and historical, who have fought to eradicate slavery. Our contemporary abolitionist of the month is Vannak Anan Prum.

Vannak Anan Prum was a slave from 2005 to 2009. Originally from Cambodia, Prum was lured away from his family and pregnant wife by the promise of a better job. Instead he was trafficked to Thailand where he became a slave on a fishing boat. Starved and tortured, he still had to work 20-hour days. Those who couldn’t perform were beaten, thrown overboard, or killed.

While the boat was anchored in Malaysia, Prum escaped with his cousin by jumping off the boat and swimming to shore. He sought help from the Malaysian police, but instead was sold by corrupt officials to a palm oil plantation. For four months, Prum was forced to work on the plantation for extremely low wages. Following an incident with another worker, Prum was put in detention, where he managed to contact Malaysian and Cambodian NGOs who helped free and repatriate him after several months.

Prum joined the fight to end human trafficking. A talented artist, he raises awareness of slavery within the Thai fishing industry through drawings that depict his years of enslavement. His story and artwork have received world recognition. In 2012 he was named one of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Heroes. His story appears in a documentary produced by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center titled, “Journey to Freedom.

The involvement of survivors is essential to anti-trafficking efforts. Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Dismantle the Business of Human Trafficking,” includes survivor-led recommendations. All law enforcement and criminal justice procedures should follow a victim-centered approach. This means promoting better coordination between victim advocates and the private sector, applying the principle of non-punishment to all victims of trafficking, and making victim services available at all stages of the criminal process.

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Published on August 21, 2015

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