More than 100 Chinese nationals held at Cambodian immigration centers have been sent home as authorities work to clear the facilities of crowding amid a spate of crime and forced labor.
Travel restrictions during Covid-19 had made it difficult for the Chinese citizens to return, said the Interior Ministry’s immigration department spokesman Keo Vanthan.
“So it has been very crowded at the immigration centers,” Vanthan said, adding that the situation was improving.
Since last year, Chinese nationals had been sent back four times for a total of more than 300 people, he said. China covered the travel costs, he added.
Crimes in Sihanoukville and elsewhere in Cambodia have involved a large number of Chinese nationals both as suspects and victims. A scourge of scam operations around the country have been linked to thousands of foreign workers as well as alleged detention, forced labor and human trafficking, often around casino compounds.
In Svay Rieng’s Bavet city, a killing of a Chinese resident at the Moc Bai casino led to the arrest of a Chinese construction materials supplier on Saturday. Provincial court spokesman Tep Phalla said on Tuesday that the suspect had now been charged with murder and sent to pretrial detention.
Meanwhile, the Thai government on Tuesday announced a new deal around extraditions and joint investigations on scam operations expected to be signed on Monday when the Thai digital minister visits Cambodia.
The deal, between the Thai Digital Ministry and Cambodian Telecommunications Ministry, aims to increase cooperation to crack down on phone and online scammers by exchanging knowledge and technology, appointing coordinators for joint investigations and facilitating extraditions under an existing treaty.
Thai police have previously expressed challenges in taking down scam operations across the border in Cambodia.
“Our rescue plan sometimes gets leaked and many of the workers are physically abused,” Sa Kaeo Provincial Police official Kritsana Iamsa-ard previously told VOD in an interview in February. “The most recent was from Sihanoukville, where five girls asked us for help. The managers at the site were informed about them asking for help. The girls then were forced to sit in a circle and took turns slapping each other until they were bleeding from the ears, and they were tasered. Those who slapped their peers too lightly were tasered and kicked, beaten. It happened to so many of them.”