Human trafficking rampant in Southeast Asia

Reuters file photo
Barbed wire fences are seen outside a compound where Cambodian authorities said they had recovered evidence of human trafficking, kidnapping and torture during raids on suspected cybercrime compounds in the coastal city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on September 21.

HANOI /BANGKOK – Thousands of young people from Southeast Asia seeking job opportunities have been sold to gangs of Chinese scammers who force their victims to take part in crimes and physically assault them.

Victims have been found mainly in Cambodia, but also in Myanmar, the Philippines and Laos. Chinese-run casinos in Cambodia are among the sites that have become hotbeds for such human trafficking.

The victims were contacted through social media and offered “high-paying jobs” with daily wages of about ¥20,000. It appears that criminal organizations are behind the offers.

When the victims arrive at their destination, they often get sold to organizations involved in phone and online scams in which they are made to dupe people into transferring money by inviting them to invest in fake stock transactions. Many of the victims claim they were detained against their will and beaten if they did not meet their designated quota.

Efforts are being made to crack down on such human trafficking and to rescue victims of the gangs.

Indonesia had rescued 514 Indonesian nationals from Cambodia as of October. Other victims have hailed from Vietnam, Thailand, India, Hong Kong and mainland China.

Taiwan authorities confirmed that 700 people trafficked from the island had been in Cambodia between March and Dec. 26.

According to figures compiled by The Yomiuri Shimbun, the total number of victims exceeds 2,700, but the real figure is likely to be much bigger.

In August, Cambodian authorities arrested the Chinese manager of a casino operating near the border with Vietnam on suspicion of forcing Vietnamese people to work at the casino.

That same month, Thai authorities arrested a Chinese businessman involved in running a casino in Myanmar and other ventures. The businessman was suspected of using and confining trafficked workers at facilities he operated.

Jason Tower, a Southeast Asia expert at the United States Institute of Peace, said China’s crackdown on online gambling around 2012 caused many operators to move to Cambodia. A growing number of these operators are now setting up gambling dens in Myanmar, according to Tower.