Job Scam Victims Trafficked in Southeast Asia

Misleading sky-high dreams . . .

In recent months, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar have been attracting workers from across the Asia Pacific in pursuit of high-paying jobs – mainly in casinos. But within this labour migration, it has recently been reported that at least 500 victims from Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and Vietnam have been scammed online in a region-wide human trafficking scheme. After flying into casino cities like Sihanoukville and Poipet in Cambodia, and the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos, often via Thailand, victims are reportedly forced to work in crime syndicates and phone scam boiler rooms. The victims often cannot return home as their passports are seized by the agencies that “employ” them. And for the price of freedom – a large sum of cash.

Ongoing investigations . . .

While the number of confirmed cases continues to increase, local and national governments throughout the region are co-operating in investigating the issue and bringing victims home. The Macau Judiciary Police has confirmed that residents are being lured through these scams, and the Hong Kong government has set up an international hotline for victims. Yesterday, Hong Kong police arrested six people over suspected job scam posts on social media. Meanwhile, Taiwanese authorities have contacted travel agencies to investigate the scams and stopped some citizens from boarding planes at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei. Over the past few weeks, victims from Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have begun to return home.

Is Cambodia doing enough?

The Cambodian Ministry of Interior launched a nationwide campaign this month to examine all foreigners in the country, excluding embassy personnel, to see if traffickers have victimized them. As the incoming 2022 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen declared in October 2021 that Cambodia would refocus ASEAN’s efforts to fight transnational crime and ensure peace, security, and prosperity in the region. But some experts claim the government is shifting blame for the issue to the complexity of cross-border trafficking. Nonetheless, as more victims of the trafficking schemes emerge, governments will have to increase their joint efforts to prevent further scams.