Vietnamese officials are seeking more information and urging cooperation from Cambodia after around 40 people, one of whom was found dead in the river, escaped from a Kandal casino and fled across the border.
Around 42 people rushed past the gates of a Koh Thom casino complex on Thursday morning, followed by guards with metal rods. Videos of the escape show workers jumping into the Binh Di river and can be seen swimming across the border to Vietnam. At the time, Vietnamese media said one person had been recaptured and another was missing in the river.
Vietnamese news outlet VnExpress reported on Saturday that the body of a 16-year-old was found in the river, and the body would be sent back to the victim’s family in Vietnam’s Gia Lai province after an autopsy.
Kandal provincial prosecutor Ek Sun Reaksmey told VOD on Monday that authorities are preparing to send the one person, who was recaptured by the Pacific Real Estate company, back to Vietnam.
The company is registered under the name Tai Ping Yang Fang Di Chan Wu Ye Guan Li. A Google Maps pin for the location is named “Rich World” and a sign near the building called it “Golden Phoenix Entertainment City.”
“The case is in the hands of the police, and they have not finished [investigating] nor have they sent it to the court yet,” he said. “But what I have learned is that there is one Vietnamese who has been recaptured and was handed to the immigration police for processing to expel [from Cambodia].”
A man wearing camouflage and standing near the complex on Thursday said the recaptured person “was beaten nearly to death” by company guards.
Immigration Department spokesperson Keo Vanthan could not be reached for comment, nor could National Police spokesperson Chhay Kimkhoeun. Kandal provincial police chief Chhoeun Sochet also was unreachable.
Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophorn and deputy governor Kruy Malen could not be reached for comment.
On Friday, Malen claimed the company was properly paying workers but the 40 people crossed the river to “avoid responsibility of their work” and gaming debts, while Kandal provincial administration posted that the company had its documents in order.
According to the outlet Vietnam News, An Giang police have detained two people from An Phu district for bringing Vietnamese citizens to work in Cambodia. The two had been involved in brokering jobs for six of the 42 people who ran out of the casino complex, as well as for bringing other workers into online jobs.
Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it had ordered its diplomatic missions in Cambodia to work with local authorities and investigate the casino business, the ministry’s spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said on Friday. The consular department was working to verify the identity of 40 individuals who successfully crossed the Binh Di river — and were taken to a community center in An Giang province’s An Phu district — and collect information from them about the conditions of their work.
Hang noted that there was a rise in Vietnamese nationals scammed and trafficked illegally to work in Cambodia, and Vietnamese officials have brought back more than 500 citizens and “supported procedures” for thousands of others to return.
Two of the escapees who spoke to VnExpress said they were tricked into working in the casino, with one man initially believing he was recruited to work in Vietnam’s Tay Ninh province. The workers had planned to escape the company, which was managed by Chinese nationals, one man said. Another woman said workers in the casino were forced to create fake social media profiles and find people to buy into a fake dating platform. If they did not work, they were beaten or threatened with a visit to an “electrocution room,” she told VnExpress.