‘It was Hell,’ says Vietnamese woman who escaped Chinese scam center
This picture taken on Feb 14, 2020 shows people walking past a casino in Sihanoukville, in southern Cambodia. (Photo:AFP)
Cambodian authorities have begun inspecting every foreigner in a bid to thwart human traffickers blamed for luring thousands of Asians into this country, but were held in fortified compounds and forced to work a range of online rackets.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng also said missions had been launched to rescue victims and arrest human traffickers with operations staged in the provinces of Kandal, bordering Vietnam, and Preah Sihanouk on the south coast. The order was given amid mounting international pressure.
“Although we have achieved many good results, we are confronted with several other challenges we must continue to address together,” he told a meeting of an interministerial working group of the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking.
Inspections began as Indonesia chartered a plane and flew home 202 of its citizens who were rescued last week from different parts of Cambodia, where they worked in online gambling and call centers mainly for Chinese crime syndicates.
Online gambling was banned here in August 2019 but reports say people from across the region are being trafficked into casinos where the practice continues underground alongside telecom fraud that involves dodgy investments, cryptocurrencies and romance scams.
Vietnamese authorities have confirmed a 16-year-old boy died after fleeing a Cambodian border casino operated by Chinese nationals with another 40 people who swam across a river bordering the two countries on Thursday. One other person was caught by the casino’s private security.
“We were tricked and sold to Cambodia”
“It was hell,” one of the escapees, Doan Thi Ngoc Diep, aged 20, told Vietnamese media of her four months at the casino. “We were tricked and sold to Cambodia.”
Victims said they answered job advertisements on Facebook offering about US$1,000 a month and. Diep said she and others had traveled for three days and changed buses five times before reaching Cambodia.
Diep was instructed to use fake accounts online to trick people into putting money into dating games: “If I didn’t do it, I would be beaten, my life would be at risk.”
Escapees said more than 2,000 Vietnamese were working illegally in Cambodian casinos.
Cambodia is awash with human trafficking reports and governments from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have lodged complaints and sought help from Cambodia in an attempt to find and rescue their citizens.
Taiwan says it is searching for more than 300 of its nationals and — in a rare show of cooperation — says it will keep the channels of communications open with China in a bid to help Cambodia police crack down on fraud rings.
“Some were used to extort a ransom from friends and family members”
A Taiwanese task force has been established which will also cooperate with law enforcement in Malaysia and Thailand.
It noted that victims were lured to Cambodia with the promise of lucrative job offers and some were used to extort a ransom from friends and family members in Taiwan.
In Beijing, Chinese government spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing that China would do its utmost to ensure the safety of “compatriots from Hong Kong and Taiwan.”
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Central Java Police raided an online gambling headquarters in Bojongsari and arrested six people working at an “online gambling headquarters” on behalf of foreign networks.
“The server is abroad, according to the information of the perpetrator, which we have investigated, the server is in Cambodia. Of course, to what extent we will prove and we will continue to develop this case,” he told Nation World News.
Many of the victims had been trafficked into Sihanoukville, capital of Preah Sihanouk province, which has been rebuilt as a gambling metropolis by Chinese investors over the last decade.
“Authorities at all levels in Preah Sihanouk province have never shied away from taking responsibility”
Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, has also held talks with Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuch Chamroeun about human trafficking, cyber crimes and online scams.
During the meeting, Kuch Chamroeun told Muntarbhorn that provincial authorities were cooperating in combating crime and called for more support from foreign embassies to investigate and end human trafficking.
Kuch Chamroeun also claimed the law and order situation in his province had been wrongly reported by some media.
“The authorities at all levels in Preah Sihanouk province have never shied away from taking responsibility. We join hands to enforce the law and combat crimes relentlessly,” he said.