Over 1,000 Thais repatriated from trafficking in Cambodia

Scam gangs have made big headlines this year for trafficking Thais and other Southeast Asians to Cambodia. Traffickers often make adverts promising easy work and cushy benefits, drawing in thousands of young, educated victims.

When the victims arrive at their destinations they are held captive and forced to work in online scam centres known as “fraud factories.” These include love scams, crypto fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling.

On Monday, The Guardian reported that Thai police had repatriated about 1,300 Thais from the Cambodian city of Sihanoukville between November 2021 and March 2022.

Buildings in Sihanoukville have been adapted for criminal enterprises, according to the Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn. Surachate said that these compounds have high walls around them, with spiked fences, so that people can’t leave without permission.

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UN Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn called conditions in these compounds a “living hell.”

Surachate said that he travelled to Sihanoukville in June to try to rescue more Thais trapped there.

But Surachate said his plan was hindered due to a lack of cooperation by Cambodian authorities. He noted that police in all countries need to be “on the same team.” Surachate said it remains to be seen if Cambodia’s authorities will change their approach to the issue.

Last month, over 60 Thais were deported from Cambodia after allegedly working for Chinese-funded call centre scams. The 64 Thais, including 39 men and 26 women, allegedly worked in centres in Sihanoukville, and Phnom Penh.

Many of the deported individuals were promised salaries of 20,000-30,000 baht per month. But one man said that he still has not been paid after working for three months.

One of the victims, a 15 year old girl, said she was beaten, electrocuted, and repeatedly sold to scam centres. Her face was disfigured, and she had dropped out of school after returning home, ashamed to face her friends.

Time will tell if Thai and Cambodian authorities will be able to truly tackle the issue.

World News

Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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