BANGKOK — A Thai woman who claimed 10 days ago that her blood was harvested at a Sihanoukville scam operation said Friday she had fabricated her account in order to get a swift rescue.
The 25-year-old spoke at a press conference in Bangkok held by Thai and Cambodian authorities, where Thai police officers said the story, which had made national headlines, was fake. Police said the woman has been charged with intentionally reporting false crime, and they would also be pursuing charges of working abroad illegally against her as well.
“Everything that [I said] happened was not true at all. I was not abducted. I made up the whole thing to get help,” she said. “I’ve heard from other people that there had been incidents like this, so I had an idea of using it to request help from authorities.”
According to an official statement from Thai police, the woman worked at a scam operation in Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet city since the beginning of 2021 and had never left the city. Police did not disclose whether she was trafficked or voluntarily worked as a scammer.
She fabricated her account of being abducted in Sihanoukville, transported between alleged scam compounds, being abused by scam bosses and having her blood harvested, according to the statement. She also created social media accounts, posting her claims in different chat groups in early March, in order to uphold her story and ask for a speedy repatriation from authorities.
Thai police had originally publicized the woman’s claims after she was repatriated with seven other Thai nationals on March 9, warning citizens against taking unofficial job offers in Cambodia. Cambodia authorities called the case “ridiculous” at the time, with one police official laughing it off.
Assistant commissioner-general Surachate Hakparn said that police found her story inconsistent during interrogations, so they continued questioning until she eventually confessed.
The woman said she lied because she was afraid her life was in danger in the Poipet compound. She said the Chinese managers of the alleged Poipet phone scam ring she worked for had threatened her after she helped another scam worker request a rescue from Cambodia.
“I’d hunt you down. You’d never make it to Thailand,” she recalled a scam manager saying to her.
Surachate, who went to the border in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province to meet her after repatriation March 9, casually interrogated her in front of the press, asking about the compound where she stayed in Poipet, her working conditions, and the kind of scam operations conducted there.
He then asked her to make a comment to the sole Cambodian officer at the presser — Sam Vannvirak, chief of the Internal Security Department.
She asked Vannvirak to rescue all Thai nationals inside the Poipet compound where she had worked, saying there were multiple smaller scam operations inside one compound and that many people were detained and forced to work. She also apologized to the chief: “I apologize that I caused a problem for everyone.”
The woman said: “It was all me, I made everything up.”
The press conference heard that the woman had passed along allegedly fabricated information to police by creating a fake Facebook account pretending to be a Thai restaurant owner in Sihanoukville.
The account messaged the woman’s girlfriend to say the woman had come into the restaurant with a Chinese national and secretly passed a written note to the owner asking for help.
The girlfriend, who had returned to Thailand after working in scam operations in Cambodia, passed on the Facebook message to authorities, but it was fake, police alleged.
Other messages between the woman and the girlfriend — which were subsequently passed along to police — were not detailed in the press conference, but have been seen by VOD.
In one, the woman sent a location in Sihanoukville to the girlfriend on March 4 via Line and claimed she had three bags of blood taken from her and was unable to move.
In another, the woman told her girlfriend — using a different Line account — that scam operators had tried unsuccessfully to take more of her blood, and she had been forced to move locations in Sihanoukville. She said her managers had forced her to create a new Line account under a Chinese name and tried to restrict her from adding contacts.
Speaking to the press in Thai on Friday, the Cambodian officer, Vannvirak, said the account badly damaged “honor and dignity” of Cambodia, and it also painted a picture that Thai authorities were negligent or ignorant. He then thanked Thai officials for their part in “bringing the truth out to the public,” and reiterated Cambodia’s plans to work with Thai police to rescue citizens in danger.
He added that Cambodia had already arrested and charged multiple individuals involved in the scam networks, stating alleged criminals included Chinese, Cambodian and Thai nationals but refusing to elaborate specific cases or even the number of people charged.
Vannvirak also referred to a Chinese man who initially alleged his blood was harvested for sale by a scam compound operator in Sihanoukville, but later retracted his story saying it was completely fabricated.
Vannvirak said that man was a businessman who lost all his money in gambling and wanted to go back to China, so he and his “four to five friends” made up a story so he could get help from the Chinese authorities.
“He has already confessed that he lied,” Vannvirak said.
The man was charged with incitement, as was Chen Baorong, a long-time expatriate businessman in Cambodia who was helping rescue Chinese nationals in scam compounds. Chen, who was also provisionally charged with false declaration, had made multiple public statements about the “blood slave” case in Chinese media.
Clarification: This article was amended at 5:45 p.m. to further clarify which messages between the woman and her girlfriend were discussed at the press conference.