Four Pakistanis Rescued From Captivity, Forced Labor in Sihanoukville

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A police officer directs traffic in Sihanoukville on January 21, 2021. (Tran Techseng/VOD)

Four Pakistani nationals were kidnapped in Sihanoukville and held against their will by a foreign company, the Pakistani Embassy said on Thursday.

They were rescued on December 31 and returned home to Pakistan after 13 days in the care of the embassy, it said.

The announcement comes amid a scourge of trafficking in the coastal city and elsewhere in the country, mostly of Chinese nationals. Victims as young as 15 have spoken of their desperation after being tricked into coming to the country, held against their will and forced to perpetrate online scams. Thai nationals have spoken of similar plights. Despite repeated rescues of victims, the companies accused of kidnapping and detaining workers have largely been allowed to continue operating.

Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Chuon Narin, however, downplayed the incident when contacted on Thursday, claiming the Pakistanis were only unhappy with the food.

“I would like to inform that there was no abduction, and they came to work here, but they found it difficult to eat because it was all Chinese food,” he laughed as he answered questions.

“They have their own food, so they contacted the embassy using terms related to ‘abduction.’ In fact there was none, and we went down to their working place and brought them out and they said it was related to the food and they found it difficult to eat.”

Regarding work at the company, Narin would only say it was digital-related.

“They worked for an electronics company. Three meals per day like the others, but they couldn’t eat it … so they couldn’t live.”

The Pakistani Embassy statement said the four young Pakistanis had been rescued within two days of their captivity after they alerted the embassy through a citizen’s portal.

They were “distressed” and “held against their will by a foreign company in Sihanoukville,” it said.

The recovery operation was carried out by law enforcement agencies “on the request and untiring efforts of the Embassy of Pakistan,” it added.

The embassy said it urged Pakistani citizens traveling to Cambodia to register with the embassy on arrival and prior to applying for jobs in order to avoid similar incidents.

“Travel with individuals claiming to be part of certain organisations should only be carried out after carrying [out] relevant background checks.”

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