Malaysian Party Alleges Underage Enslavement in Cambodia, Ongoing Rescue Attempts

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Returned Thai nationals go through Covid-19 screening procedures at the Poipet border after being released from a Pursat province special economic zone on November 24, 2021. (Royal Thai Police)
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A Malaysian political party has raised the alarm over human trafficking, physical abuse and forced labor in Cambodia, and brought entrapped victims’ parents to a press conference on Wednesday to plead for rescues, according to local media.

The embassies of Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan and China have also previously issued warnings about the situation, according to Cambodian NGOs, while Thai police have disclosed they are currently working on removing as many as 3,000 of its citizens from Cambodian scam compounds in the coming weeks.

The Malaysian Chinese Association, a political party that represents the Malaysian Chinese ethnicity and part of a major political coalition, said some of the Malaysian victims were girls as young as 17, while some victims were captive in buildings with guards with guns or physically abused, Malaysia’s The Star reported.

“If you’re a Malaysian, you will be given a laptop to cheat Malaysians and if you don’t do well and could not scam anyone, you will be beaten up,” the party’s public services and complaints department head Michael Chong said at a Wednesday press conference, according to The Star.

“Here, I have 10 victims who managed to call me. I think there are at least 100 victims,” he said, adding that he first received the message about two months ago. “I have already received more than 10 cases seeking my help but only two have been rescued.”

According to messages shown to reporters, one victim said there were 50 Malaysians held captive at the same compound as him, The Star reported.

Two victims’ parents also spoke at the press conference about their children’s pleas for help, according to Free Malaysia Today.

“He called me saying his job was to cheat people through phone calls. If he didn’t perform, they would hit him,” said the father of an 18-year-old victim, FMT reported.

“He was so frightened and said the building was locked up and the entrance was guarded with gunmen and there was no way to get out of the building,” said the mother of a 24-year-old victim, according to The Star.

Chong, the party official, said Malaysian police were working with Interpol but could only help those who lodged a report, and urged victims who were able to run away to go to the embassy, The Star said.

VOD has contacted the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh for information.

Cambodian National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun, when asked about Thai authorities’ plan to visit Cambodia and remove some 3,000 Thai nationals from scam compounds, said on Tuesday that he welcomed cooperation on the issue.

“We need to cooperate because we are neighboring countries and also members of the same Asean police,” he said at the time. “Second, this crime is a crime within areas that need cooperation, like human trafficking, human confinement and illegal border crossings. These are sectors that require cooperation.”

The Japanese Embassy said last week that it was not aware of any of its citizens being entrapped in slave labor in Cambodia, and would not comment on the general situation.

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