Four Workers Called Out for Help From Phnom Penh Condo Before Raid

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A city bus prepares to take foreign nationals from a Phnom Penh apartment block on Boeng Keng Kang’s St. 310 to the airport on October 13, 2022. (Mech Dara/VOD)
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Four people trapped in forced labor inside a central Phnom Penh condominium reached out to Interior Minister Sar Kheng for help, leading to a raid this week that removed 274 foreign nationals from the Boeng Keng Kang apartment building, the immigration department said.

The raid, on St. 310, saw roads blocked and a convoy of buses drive straight from the apartment to the airport on Thursday, where 50-80 foreign nationals escorted by police entered through the public departure hall.

On Friday, immigration department spokesman Keo Vanthan told VOD outside an Interior Ministry press conference that the raid was prompted by four people reaching out to Interior Minister Kheng’s Facebook page seeking rescue.

“Samdech ordered Phnom Penh Municipal Police to rescue the four people, and they got them out of there,” Vanthan said. “During the inspection, there were 274 foreigners of four nationalities.” Most were Chinese or Taiwanese, and there were also nine Malaysian and one Thai national.

Most had passports and were fined, but 66 did not, and were sent to the immigration center and were due to be deported, Vanthan said.

However, even the others who had passports had still been involved in illegal work, so Kheng’s policy was to ask them to buy a ticket out of Cambodia.

Cambodian authorities feared some would go join another illegal business so they were not welcome to stay, Vanthan explained, though he would not say what type of business the workers were involved in.

Authorities have raided more than 10 compounds in each of Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville over recent weeks as pressure has mounted following months of foreign human trafficking and forced labor victims speaking out about detention, debt bondage, threats and torture at Cambodian compounds.

The workers have said they were mostly forced to perpetrate massive global scams online — often involving fake romances and cryptocurrency — but Cambodian officials have been labeling the criminal operations as “illegal gambling” instead.

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