60 Vietnamese Escape Bavet-Moc Bai Casino

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A metal gate blocks an entrance to Bavet-Moc Bai casino in Svay Rieng’s Bavet city on September 15, 2022. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
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More than 60 Vietnamese nationals attempted to flee a Bavet city casino on Saturday, as regional media report more arrests and raids tied to forced labor and fraud operations in Cambodia.

Bavet city police chief Em Sovannarith told VOD on Monday that more than 60 Vietnamese nationals escaped from Moc Bai Casino in Bavet on Saturday afternoon, including about 10 women.

About 40 people had so far been questioned by Cambodian police, Sovannarith said, revealing there had been rumors the company could not pay them and some were concerned after hearing of a government crackdown on illegal work at casinos.

“A few people among them spread some information in their Telegram chat that the company is bankrupt, so they started panicking and started leaving, and others just followed,” he said, adding that workers were paid monthly, receiving their latest paycheck on September 12.

Sovannarith said the workers weren’t forced into labor or detained, repeating a common refrain from local officials after releasing foreign workers.

A video of Saturday’s escape acquired by Vietnamese news outlet VnExpress shows a group of people running past an orange, neoclassical-style building, with at least one person stopped and beaten by a guard.

One of the escapees told VnExpress that he had been tricked into working in the Cambodian casino three months ago and he wasn’t allowed to go outside.

Another said they planned the escape because they found out police would inspect the casino, and the group of workers feared they would be sold.

Sovannarith said the workers only appeared to be running because it was raining outside the building. Other employees had stayed in the building and maintained their job without complaint, he said.

The workers, some of whom said they had worked for the company between eight and 18 months, had been stopped at the border checkpoint, and officials would wait for further instructions from their superiors once they finished questioning.

Bavet-Moc Bai Casino has five directors all originally from Myanmar. They have all been granted Cambodian citizenship, according to government records. The company’s listed contact email and phone number matches a Facebook account, Wei Maly, which has also posted various photos with senior military general Kun Kim, as well as with military police commander Sao Sokha and the prime minister’s nephew Hun To.

The chairman of the board of directors, U Wang Young, has repeatedly donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Cambodian Red Cross, headed by the prime minister’s wife, according to governmental news articles.

A reporter attempted to call the contact number listed for Bavet-Moc Bai on the Commerce Ministry’s website, but the woman who answered said she stopped working for the casino three or four years ago and didn’t have additional contacts.

Commune police told VOD in July that a Chinese man killed a Moc Bai casino resident over a $3,000 debt.

The Vietnamese consulate in Sihanoukville’s consul general Vu Ngoc Ly told VnExpress that his department has worked with provincial authorities on 50-60 rescues releasing more than 600 people since the start of the year. Several Vietnamese families say they’ve been under pressure from scam company bosses to pay ransoms to ensure their children aren’t tortured, sometimes taking out loans to pay ransoms, according to VnExpress.

Raids and Rescues From Around the Region

Taiwanese police arrested five alleged leaders of a fraud ring in Cambodia, capturing an alleged mastermind who returned from Cambodia after learning of a murder-suicide in Phnom Penh last month, according to Central News Agency, the country’s national news outlet

Tainan City police said two men and three women were arrested in Taoyuan city on Taiwan’s west coast on Thursday for their involvement in recruiting Taiwanese workers to Cambodia and defrauding Chinese-speaking people in Europe via love scams and a fraudulent investment scheme.

The “ringleader” — identified as a 32-year-old man — and a woman in her 20s who was in charge of recruitment, both had the surname Lin and had been living and working in Cambodia.  The two returned to Taiwan after three Taiwanese nationals were found dead in a suspected murder-suicide last month in a condo in Boeng Keng Kang I, according to CNA.

The other three workers were based in Taiwan, handling passports and transportation for new recruits to the Cambodian company, Tainan police said.

Meanwhile in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province, police on Friday arrested a 19-year-old woman who is suspected of being involved in call center fraud. She attempted to escape a warrant by crossing into Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province, according to Thai news outlet Naew Na. 

Accounts of forced labor and trafficking have also continued to garner regional media attention: Channel News Asia reported on Saturday that Malaysian citizens had been trafficked across land borders between their country, Thailand and Malaysia, with one rescued worker claiming he had been tasered three times a week in one Cambodia-based scam compound. Australia’s ABC News also profiled victims of forced labor in Cambodia from Vietnam, Indonesia and Taiwan, as well as an Australian citizen who realized the man she chatted with on WhatsApp was a scammer.

Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday announced that another 11 Malaysian workers had been returned from online jobs in Cambodia, with officials rescuing 123 out of 153 citizens reported to be stuck in Cambodia-based jobs.

A politician in Sabah state had also warned that residents of Malaysian Borneo had also been trafficked abroad for fraudulent jobs.

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