Accounts of Trafficking in Cambodia Escalate in Regional Media

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An archived screenshot of the members page on the Federation of Khmer Chinese in Cambodia from October 2018. (Wayback Machine)
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Taiwanese prosecutors allege ransom and electric shocks at Cambodian compounds, Malaysian media report a holidayer allegedly kidnapped then sold into scam work, and a Vietnamese newspaper says 10 countries are pressing Cambodia to cooperate on human trafficking.

Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam have each suggested that thousands of their nationals could be stuck in illegal Cambodian scam operations, according to regional media whose coverage of scams and trafficking in Cambodia has escalated in recent weeks.

Cambodian authorities have pledged action against the human trafficking, and have rescued hundreds of victims and arrested managers and drivers. They have also promised action against the owners of trafficking compounds, though there has so far been little acknowledgement of the massive global scam industry that has taken root in the country.

On Friday, Taiwanese prosecutors indicted nine suspects for trafficking people to Cambodian scam compounds. Focus Taiwan said two people-smuggling rings had trafficked at least 88 people with false offers of high-paying jobs, and the groups had been receiving $17,000-$18,000 for each individual sent to Cambodia.

AFP further reported that the false job ads had targeted jobless young people in financial difficulties, who were handed over to telecom and online fraud rings that forced them to work.

“Some were beaten and hit with electric shocks or held for ransom if they refused to obey orders or performed poorly,” AFP reported based on the prosecutors’ statement.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s the Star reported on Friday that a Malaysian woman on vacation in Cambodia was kidnapped from a restaurant on August 7, citing political party the Malaysian Chinese Association. The Star said she was sold into forced labor at a scam call center, then rescued on August 23 after reaching out to Interior Minister Sar Kheng via social media.

The newspaper over the weekend also reported on a schoolteacher pleading to authorities to rescue her son from Cambodia, the Malaysian Embassy pleading to Cambodian authorities to deport rather than jail rescued trafficking victims without proper documentation, and “victims living from one horror to the next.”

In Vietnam, VnExpress last week reported on traffickers’ tactics in luring Vietnamese people to Cambodian scam compounds, and said that authorities believe thousands may have been tricked and trafficked into Cambodia, and that Vietnam and nine other countries had offered Cambodia cooperation in combating human trafficking.

The Federation of Khmer Chinese in Cambodia, however, last month disputed international media characterizations of the country as a “crime haven,” saying it was “inevitable” that some foreign investment would be fraudulent but it did not represent the economy as a whole.

The federation’s website previously listed as individual members oknha Duong Chhiv; Senator Lao Meng Khin; Vattanac bank chairman Sam Ang; Land Minister Chea Sophara; former Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun; lawmaker Chheang Vun; Senator Kok An; Senator Ly Yong Phat; and Khov Kimbak, an adviser to Interior Minister Sar Kheng. But since issuing the statement last month, all member listings have been removed from the website. A man who answered a phone number for the federation said he would check the situation. The group is headed by Canadia Bank tycoon Pung Kheav Se.

Additional reporting by Phin Rathana

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