From HawaiiNewsNow.com, Ben Gutierrez, 5 Aug 2011.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A day after a federal judge threw out the human trafficking case against Aloun Farms, dozens of Thai workers who claimed they were mistreated are preparing to file a civil lawsuit.
The 44 workers who were at the center of the case spoke out for the first time, with many of them saying they could not understand why the case against the owners of Aloun Farms was dismissed.
Brothers Mike and Alec Sou faced 20 years in prison had they been found guilty.
Several of the men said they had been recruited to work at the farm, but were told to leave after their visas expired, just five months after they arrived. They also complained of long hours and crowded conditions where they were housed.
“Aloun Farms claims that we were here to stay,” said a worker who wanted to be identified only by his initials, T.T., through an interpreter. “That’s not true. If they did what they promised, three-year contract, we would be happy to come work here, and after the contract was over, we go home.”
“Alec and Mike may have had sweet dreams last night, but not us. We had nightmares,” said worker Chakkree Sriphabun, also through an interpreter.
“We had a three year contract but we were here only three months. What happened to our money?,” Sriphabun asked.
“They were just abandoned,” said attorney Melissa Vincenty. “They were given no ticket back to Thailand, which the Sous were required under the H2A (temporary agricultural worker visa) regulations to provide. They had no place to go. And some were homeless for a time while they looked for a place to live and a place to work.”
The workers are here on a temporary non-immigrant status visa, according to attorney Clare Hanusz. She and Vincenty are preparing to file a civil lawsuit on behalf of 32 of the men, but are not ready to say who will be among the defendants in the suit.
Related stories from Hawaii New Now: Sou brothers speak out, Aloun Farms celebrates case dismissal