Dozens of Thais rescued from Chinese gang, phone scam centre in Cambodia

Thai police officers debrief a group of Thais after being rescued from the phone scam centre and repatriated to Thailand. Credit: Royal Thai Police

Thai police forces have reportedly rescued dozens of Thai nationals who were allegedly being held captive by a Chinese gang operating a phone scam centre in a Cambodian coastal gambling town. About two dozen Thais were rescued last Sunday from a guarded townhouse in Sihanoukville, after negotiating with the Chinese gangsters who were running the operation.

Pictures from the Royal Thai Police show a 10 storey building reinforced with razor wire and security cameras. Police say they were able to rescue the Thai nations from the scam centre after traveling to the Cambodian seaside town, where they engaged in extensive negotiations with a gang of Chinese men, according to a report by Al Jazeera.

The Royal Thai Police say they’ve already rescued about 700 Thais who were being held captive and exploited by Chinese gangs for various scam operations in Cambodia. Police say the scam gangs could still be holding more than 1,500 Thais against their will in the Sihanoukville area alone.

According to people who were rescued from the building, each captive Thai was required to ‘scam’ at least US$15,000, or around 505,000 baht, every month, while under the threat of being sold to another gang if they couldn’t get enough deals done.

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“Teerapat” and his wife “Dao” were two such Thais who were tricked into joining the scam, lured with the false promises of lucrative “online sales jobs” with transportation, room and board included. After two years of pandemic in their small town near the border in eastern Thailand, the offer seemed too good to refuse. Speaking to Al Jazeera, he related the details of their ordeal…

“I normally don’t trust people easily. But we were both desperate for money so when the broker said we could make up to US$2,000 a month, with everything paid for, transport and room and board, we were convinced… Had I known that my job was to scam other Thais, I would have never gone.”

When they arrived at a guarded, 12 story building, they quickly realised they weren’t going to be doing online sales after all. It was just a lie to lure them it. Instead, they were forced to pose as policemen, customs officials or potential investors and make unsolicited phone calls, pressuring unsuspecting Thais across the border to make money transfers to the gangers’ bank accounts.

In a statement, a high-ranking Thai police officer, Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn (aka. Big Joke), said Thai police have so far rescued and repatriated about 700 Thais from Cambodia. They said that most of them were forced into debt bondage, unable to pay the hefty price of several thousand US dollars to regain their freedom.

“We’ve issued human trafficking warrants for international organised gangs as well as prosecuted brokers who smuggled Thais through illegal border crossings into Cambodia.”

According to various media reports, organised criminal gangs in the Sihanoukville areas have lured hundreds of Southeast Asians, including Thais, Malaysians, Indonesians and Filipinos. Sihanoukville is a notoriously crime-infested beach town riddled with casinos and overrun with Chinese online gangs.

Gangsters in the area routinely head to Thailand, targeting farmers languishing in small villages in between harvest seasons. Unfortunately, many people are duped into forced labour at factories and on fishing boats, or more recently, at scam centres, where they find themselves being exploited by criminal syndicates and unable to escape.

According to Royal Thai Police spokesman Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen…

“Most of the kingpins are in China but they employ people all the way down the line in neighbouring countries. When the Thai recruits learn that their job is to scam their fellow Thais, they don’t want to do it any more. But they can’t leave so they have to keep working for the gang.”

Dozens of Thais rescued from Chinese gang, phone scam centre in Cambodia | News by Thaiger

PHOTO: The building where a Chinese gang was holding Thais captive to operate a phone scam centre in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Credit: Royal Thai Police

SOURCE: Al Jazeera

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Jay Shine

A longtime expat in Asia with a degree in journalism and creative writing. Highlights include writing for Condé Nast Traveller and Apple Music. In his spare time, Jay enjoys writing poetry, brewing traditional Chinese tea and lounging with his calico soi cat, Almond.

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