Workers trapped in Cambodian human-trafficking hubs are forced to perpetrate massive global scams
Many guesthouses and hotels across Poipet have been fully booked out by “online” companies to house their foreign workers, turning the city into a boomtown for the hazy work.
Workers stuck inside the Grand Diamond City Casino told VOD their harrowing accounts of escaping the burning buildings, with the incident also raising serious questions about fire safety measures in the casino.
“Peace” is written across every local and central government building in Cambodia, but not always found within them. This year has been marked by episodes of abuse and corruption from government officials, as well as intimidation against whistleblowers and journalists.
The dusty road outside tycoon Try Pheap’s Thmor Da SEZ in Pursat is empty. But behind locked metal gates, its shabby buildings appear full of inhabitants. Interior Minister Sar Kheng this week called out police excuses in their crackdown on scam compounds, urging vigilance.
Workers say their scam companies moved before and during police raids of compounds, allowing businesses to escape the law — and some workers to escape detention.
Amid targeted raids and arrests against scam and human trafficking operations in Cambodia, accounts from victims and a rescue group indicate that at least some syndicates are going to great lengths to relocate workers to a new country to evade capture.
Dozens of foreign workers were taken from a central Phnom Penh condominium under heavy police presence and driven straight to the airport on Thursday.
As police raids have hit known scam locations and “illegal gambling” dens across the country, residents of casino haven Bavet say they have seen buses ferrying in hundreds of workers over the last few weeks to existing casinos and alleged scam compounds in the border town.
Hundreds of foreign nationals have been removed from Phnom Penh compounds as police acknowledged detention, torture, extortion and human trafficking in several arrests.
Indonesian nationals rescued from a Phnom Penh scam compound say they were targeting Facebook users every day to cheat them out of thousands of dollars. Most are relieved to have gotten away from the criminal work and threat of violence that hovered over them.
Nearly 9,000 phones were seized from a Sihanoukville compound and barbed wire cut from the notorious “Chinatown” area. As human trafficking raids target compounds across the city, residents say other buildings appear to be quietly emptying of foreign workers.
A Vietnamese family took out loans against their family home to help their son escape enslavement in Cambodia. They scrambled to organize a cross-border rescue from a scam syndicate accused of torture and trafficking, asking VOD for assistance.
A Taiwanese man came to Cambodia to try to get his stepson out of forced labor in Koh Kong’s Union Development Group concession, but complications arose after the father reported the case to local authorities.
Fake callers impersonating police and others in positions of authority are cheating Thais out of their life savings. But the victims often receive little sympathy, and are instead ridiculed for falling for the scams, many of which operate out of Cambodia.
Every day, posters come to the “White Shark Channel” to plug their services or seek those of others. People smugglers, bounty hunters and even scammers looking for new jobs in the industry are networking in the Telegram group.
A notorious Vietnamese ex-hacker infiltrated Cambodian scam operations’ computers after entrapped workers reached out for help. He collected thousands of internal chat messages and documented the workings of their fake online investment schemes.
Seeking the rescue of 11 men allegedly entrapped at scam operations, a volunteer visited three commune police stations, Sihanoukville city and provincial authorities, and sent messages to officials and a police hotline. None were released, and two groups faced consequences.
Reporters followed the case of a 22-year-old from his call for help — in which he alleged he was trapped and electrocuted at a Kampot scam compound — to the efforts of a friend of his to get him out.
Cambodian authorities were tight-lipped over a raid in a Sihanoukville compound, but it was busy with police work and people gathered in its courtyard last week. Videos emerging amid the operation suggested Vietnamese nationals were waiting for rescue.
Murders, kidnappings, corpses on the beach — news reports out of Sihanoukville paint a picture of violent and serious crime in the coastal city. But authorities are increasingly shutting down information about police work and pressuring journalists over negative stories, crime reporters say.
Thai police officials spoke to VOD about the rising number of Thai nationals lured by scam operations in Cambodia and provided insight into their efforts to rescue victims and the abuses perpetrated by these companies.
Victims Allege Sihanoukville Precincts With Ties to Major Businesses Are Sites of Scams, Torture, Detention
A web of powerful interests surrounds sites of trafficking and forced labor in Sihanoukville: Its notorious “Chinatown” area is dotted with businesses linked to prominent tycoons and high-ranking officials; another heavily guarded compound is owned by a ruling-party senator.
A Chinese national, who was trafficked to Cambodia, alleges that his blood was harvested seven times since last August, after he refused to partake in scam operations, leaving him frail and putting his health at serious risk.
As accusations of forced labor and confinement at scam operations across Cambodia come to the fore, two Thai nationals spoke to VOD about how they were detained and duped into scamming other people at sites in Poipet and Sihanoukville.
A remote, city-like compound owned by U.S.-blacklisted tycoon Try Pheap is housing online scam operations of thousands of workers rife with forced labor, detention and unexplained deaths, trafficking victims and rescuers allege.
Chinese nationals, as young as 15 years old, are being trafficked and forced to work in online gambling and scam companies in Sihanoukville, according to pleas for help sent to a group of Chinese volunteers that rescues victims of human trafficking in Cambodia.