The group of seven ‘rescued’ scammers who returned home from Cambodia had begged, live on air, to be rescued from a different set of scammers – this time Cambodian / Chinese.
The two men and five women crossed the border in Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district on Tuesday evening, escorted by Thai embassy staff and Cambodian security officials.
Only four had valid travel documents but all seven claim that they were somehow taken to Cambodia against their will through an “unguarded” border crossing.
The alleged victims live-streamed their plight on Facebook on Monday. They claim – as is the norm in this kind of case – that they had been “duped” by a Chinese scam ring into working in Cambodia’s Svay Rieng province, which borders Vietnam.
The group say they were forced to work 15 hours a day without pay. Their dorms were surrounded by an electric fence, so they were unable to leave, and turned to Facebook to appeal for help. The ‘rescued’ scammers returned home from Cambodia and claim they were forced to talk Thai victims into applying for loans. If they failed to meet their quota, gang members, they say, would beat them up.
After seeing their live-streaming session Sa Kaeo immigration mounted a rescue operation.
Dozens of Cambodian call centre scammers were rounded up by police in Sa Kaeo province last week. They all have similar tales of woe that leave them entirely blameless. Everyone was duped, they claim. Everyone was trafficked.
At the beginning of this year police caught 21 Thai fraudsters in Cambodia, members of three different gangs headed by “Chinese” nationals. The director of the police cyber task force said more than 500 million baht (US$14 million) was involved.
Human trafficking has long been an endemic problem in South East Asia. Criminal networks are now looking further afield and preying on a different type of victim. Their targets tend to be quite young, better-educated, computer-literate, and usually speaking more than one regional language.
These are seen as key by traffickers who need skilled labour to conduct online criminal activity, ranging from love scams known as “pig butchering” and crypto fraud to money laundering and illegal gambling.
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