Thai gangs traffic Kenyans to Myanmar scam factories

Thai gangs trafficked more than 60 Kenyans who have been rescued from Laos and Myanmar over the last few months after call-centre jobs turned out to be a cover for cybercrime, prostitution and even organ theft.

According to Kenya’s foreign affairs ministry, at least one Kenyan has died as a result of a botched operation in Myanmar.

A 31 year old woman with a diploma in hotel management left the country for a job in Thailand with a promised monthly salary of U$800 (28,500 baht).

A month before departure, she told the BBC, she borrowed nearly US$2,000 (70,000 baht) to pay the agents for the trip and had a short training session.

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As soon as she arrived in Thailand, now with another woman on her way to a similar job, their handlers took them on a long road journey that ended in a 15-storey building in neighbouring Laos. This was their new home, but they had no idea where they were located.

It was here they learned that the “call centre” where they were to work, targeted Americans through Tinder, Instagram and Facebook.

Human Trafficking – Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Coorporation
It is mainly the young and educated who fall victim to the cartels.

The rescued woman said…

“They fall in love with you and you then tell them about crypto-currency. Then you start stealing from them.”

Both women were forced to work in a factory with hundreds of others made up of a variety of nationalities. Neither of them received their promised salary but instead were threatened with sex work or organ harvesting if they turned out to be no good at scamming foreigners.

“They told us to pay U$10,000 (350,00 baht) to buy your freedom because they owned us.”

Cybercrime means being online, and the pair managed to make contact with Awareness Against Human Trafficking, a Kenyan charity. They were eventually rescued and flown home with the help of the UN and Kenyan authorities.

The two young women are now left with huge debts and are in a worse situation than they were five months ago.

Despite awareness campaigns and government crackdowns, non-existent jobs in Thailand are widely advertised and Kenyans continued to fall victim. Some return home on crutches after being beaten in the factories.

The Thai gangs traffic the Kenyans mainly into Kachin state, where rebel separatists are fighting the military, hampering rescue efforts. Recent army operations killed over 60 people in the area controlled by rebel groups, who protect Chinese cartels.

In total 76 victims, including 10 Ugandans and one Burundian, have been repatriated since August with the help of officials at Kenya’s embassy in Thailand.

The revelations of Southeast Asia job scams follow continuing reports of the mistreatment of Africans in the Middle East. The African Development Bank estimates that while more than 12 million young people enter the workforce in Africa each year, only three million formal jobs are created.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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