Cambodia has earned itself a reputation for a place where many tourists and hopeful job seekers are met with the brutality of human-trafficking rings that kidnap victims and force them into illegal activities, such as phone scams, illegal gambling, and worse. Things got so bad over the past couple of months that the United States recommended its businesses and citizens to steer clear from Cambodia because of the above-cited risks.
Because of that, and the prevalence of illegal activities, Cambodian authorities have been working tirelessly to clean up the country’s reputation. The latest attempt to do so has culminated in the rescue of 44 Indonesian nationals who were held hostage by a Chinese criminal gang, the Khmer Times reported this week. The criminal gang was directly linked to a gambling network operating out of Sihanoukville, a hotbed for seedy characters, illegal gambling, and other criminal activities.
Authorities did not just swoop in to the rescue, as previous efforts to do so have resulted in injuries but rather negotiated the release of the hostages. Their release came without the police raids that are usually involved in such situations, which is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, authorities did not hurt anyone, but on the other, it still shows that Cambodia is struggling to uphold the law in the country.
Indonesian Human Trafficking Victims and Their Gambling Masters
The 44 victims fell for a familiar ploy used by illegal gambling syndicates. They responded to a job offer that had them leave Indonesia and head to Cambodia. Once there, though, there was no job waiting for them. Instead, the criminal syndicate forced the victims to work 12 hours a day and meet specific quotas, which were often impossible to achieve. Syndicates do pay something back to workers, but it’s usually several times lower than the advertised job offer.
Those who couldn’t reach the quota were put through various punishments concocted by the criminals. When a worker became “useless,” the syndicates put out a ransom note to their families, requesting between $3,000 to $5,000 for their release. What is worse is that in this particular situation, 30 of the Indonesians have been traded between different criminal syndicates.
Once working for the syndicates, the victims’ jobs were numerous, and they all concerned various fraudulent activities. They would have to lure people to cryptocurrency assets, shares, and exchanges and convince them to place down money on pre-determined options. Many spent their days creating fake profiles on Tinder and WhatsApp as well.
The situation for many people stranded in Cambodia became even worse when the pandemic struck, flights were canceled and people became stuck and unable to leave.
Efforts Made to Tackle Human Trafficking in Cambodia Ongoing
There are other similar stories of the recent months with the exact number of human trafficking victims hard to pinpoint. In November, Cambodian authorities freed 60 Thai victims who had fallen victim to a similar scam. Meanwhile, the country has been trying to rapidly shut down illegal gambling websites operating on its territory.