Twenty-four Malaysians—victims of human trafficking—were rescued from Cambodia and brought back to their homes on Friday, but authorities say many are still missing, having fallen for scam networks often run by transnational organized crime groups.
According to Malaysia’s foreign minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, 118 Malaysians have been rescued from the total captive of 148 citizens. Twenty-nine people are awaiting departure from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, a coastal city, pending ongoing investigations and related paperwork. However, 30 Malaysians are still reported missing.
“What is most important is that they are coming back to Malaysia today safe and sound. We do not want to go into the details,” Saifuddin said. “There is no guarantee we can stop it (job scams) but we will try our level best.”
Trafficking Ring Spreads Throughout Southeast AsiaThe Taiwanese government said in August that hundreds of its citizens were held captive in Cambodia after being promised high-paying tech jobs.
Trafficking syndicates target young Asian people via social media and lure them with promises of well-paying jobs and accommodation in countries such as Cambodia. However, when the people land in the country, their passports are confiscated and they’re forced to work in illegal phone or online scams.
“We work more than 15 hours a day. They give us instructions to scam people around the world,” one victim told in a press conference held in Kuala Lumpur in April. “If we do not perform, they hit us. More than 30 of us have been mistreated because we underperformed.”
Rescue efforts have been complicated by the corruption within the Cambodian justice system. The Cambodian interior minister, Sar Kheng, said that nationwide searches would be conducted in hotels, rented properties, and casinos for checking on foreigners and their visit status in the country.
The Chinese ConnectionBesides Taiwan and Philippines, Vietnam has also witnessed many citizens falling for fake online job offers. Vietnam, like Taiwan, is home to a large Chinese-speaking population. Many victims are taken to work in Chinese-owned casinos in Sihanoukville where the clientele is mostly from the mainland and there is a requirement for Mandarin speakers.
The gambling houses were impacted by the COVID-19 tourism restrictions, and operators, mostly Chinese tycoons, were forced to turn to other sources of income. Over 1,000 realty projects in Sihanoukville are currently unfinished, said Ya Tong, a manager at the Cambodia Pacific Real Estate Company to RFA.