Foreign workers threw rocks at buses as passengers tried to break out of them, according to police, as locals spoke of hundreds daily leaving alleged scam compounds in Svay Rieng’s border city of Bavet.
The apparent exodus comes after scam workers appeared to have been transferred to the city’s casino compounds following raids elsewhere in the country. After many months of foreign workers calling out for help from buildings in Cambodia where they say they were trapped and forced to perpetrate online scams, the country was downgraded in human trafficking rankings.
Bavet city police chief Em Sovannarith said that around 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, a crowd had formed near the border gate to Vietnam. People threw rocks as others tried to break out of buses, he said. But they were gone by the time police arrived.
“There were between 50 and 60 people, and we don’t know how the chaos happened or for what reasons,” he said. “They are all Vietnamese and when the border opened, they went to their homeland.”
Videos posted to TikTok captured chaotic scenes outside the Crown casino in Bavet, with a crowd blocking the path of a departing bus and others jumping over border barricades. The police officer said he had seen the TikTok videos and confirmed some of the scenes in those videos.
Sovannarith added that a Thai man was found dead in the Crown compounds the day earlier. “He had fallen down from the building,” he said.
A local tuk-tuk driver, who declined to be named due to safety fears, said he had seen hundreds of people leaving from the Crown, Moc Bai and Heng Heng compounds daily for the past three days.
All three compounds had faced allegations of entrapping foreign workers to work on global scams.
People were walking across the border with luggage, and many were traveling on cars and buses, the tuk-tuk driver said. “There are only a few people remaining at the compounds,” he said.
A motorbike taxi driver said most of the departures happened during the night and early morning.
Neither police nor locals said they knew why the apparent exodus was taking place, or where the departing buses were headed.