Indonesia tightens exit points as Taiwan arrests organized crime leaders
Chinese police escort suspects as they prepare to board a plane at Phnom Penh international airport in this Oct 12, 2017 photo. Cambodia deported 74 Chinese national suspected of running a telecoms scam to extort money from victims in their home country. (Photo: AFP)
Cambodia has repatriated hundreds of foreign nationals, who were lured into the southern port town of Sihanoukville, where many were allegedly subjected to electric shocks and held for ransom by human trafficking rings after being duped by false promises of high-paid jobs.
More than 600 have been returned to Vietnam in recent weeks after coordinated rescue operations by the two countries and are currently being processed for repatriation. Hanoi also said it believed that thousands of Vietnamese were still being held against their will in Cambodia.
Cambodian prosecutors have also charged six Chinese and Cambodian suspects with human trafficking after more than 100 victims were rescued in 12 days. Authorities also found an electric shock baton and handcuffs at a compound in Sihanoukville.
They were arrested on Friday after victims lodged a complaint with Interior Minister Sar Kheng, which included smuggling 35 Chinese nationals into Sihanoukville by sea.
Taiwanese prosecutors announced on Friday that nine suspects had been indicted on human trafficking charges for allegedly luring 88 people to Cambodia where they were forced to work for “online rip-off syndicates” in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.
It said in a statement that included the heads of two human smuggling rings — that ran job ads on social media with guarantees of “excessive salaries and straightforward loans” — which had tricked mainly jobless young people with money problems into traveling to Cambodia.
"Defendants were dedicated criminals with no regard for the lives and human rights that they severely violated"
Once there, they were handed over to telecom and online fraud rings and compelled to work.
Prosecutors said in a statement some allegedly suffered electrical shocks or were held for ransom if they refused to obey orders or did not meet work expectations.
“The defendants were dedicated criminals with no regard for the lives and human rights that they severely violated,” they said, adding that human trafficking had become a national embarrassment.
Reports of rescues are making daily headlines in Cambodia and according to a report by the China Daily about 20,000 Chinese people who intended to sneak abroad illegally to carry out telecom and online fraud were stopped by Chinese police from May to October in 2021.
A dozen countries, from Pakistan and India to Mongolia and the Philippines have lodged complaints with Cambodia in regards to the trafficking of their nationals following the latest wave which erupted early this year.
In March, a group of 35 NGOs told the Cambodian government urgently address “a crisis of forced labor, slavery and torture” after warnings were issued by five Asian embassies. In July the United States dropped Cambodia to Tier 3, the lowest rank on its human trafficking index, for failing to deal with the issue.
“There has been a sharp rise in the number of Indonesian victims"
Indonesia has also announced it will tighten security at exit points around the country and stop workers heading to Cambodia with fake job offers, which has included chartered flights from Medan to Sihanoukville.
“There has been a sharp rise in the number of Indonesian victims from a total of 119 in 2021 to 446 from January to August 2022,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told parliament last week.
She also said Jakarta had repatriated all of its victims this year, including 241 people who were brought home in July and August after being held captive in Sihanoukville.
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