April 1, 2023

In recent years, Cambodia has opened a number of high-rise buildings — many in Chinese-run “special economic zones” — which human rights advocates say have partly acted as quasi-sanctions for online financial fraud targeting victims across Asia. factories, and increasingly in the United States. Forbes A California scam victim who lost more than $1 million in a so-called “pig slaughtering” scam was recently profiled, and the scammer formed a long-term relationship with the victim before convincing them to invest the funds in a cryptocurrency scheme .

Within these centres, workers who are lured and trafficked from neighbouring countries are asked to carry out these scams through various online channels.However, as a recent national repression Contrary to what Cambodian government officials call “illegal gambling,” at least some of the complexes are believed to be home to these cryptocurrency-fueled financial scams Upset In recent days, experts say.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng said 176 people had been arrested in connection with the series of attacks, which spanned eight countries.in a statement The Sihanoukville provincial government released on Sunday that authorities said they recovered four guns, 804 computers, 16 laptops, 36 passports, four sets of handcuffs, eight electric batons, two ” Shocking Torch” and nearly 9,000 cell phones.

People trapped in these compounds, often from nearby countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, have promised high-paying jobs. Once in Cambodia, however, they trick people online, sometimes with threats of violence.

Bilce Tan, a 41-year-old Malaysian man, said he saw an online job advertisement in April that caught his attention. The job, in a management position at a digital marketing firm in Cambodia, is said to pay 12,000 ringgit, or about $2,700 a month. That’s about six times the median salary in his home country, according to Latest data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia.

Tan told Forbes He was held for several weeks in a compound in Sihanoukville earlier this year before managing to escape, noting that he is not very good at deceiving people. But he described being given 10 mobile phones, two computers and “seven to eight fake accounts to communicate with these victims”.

“As long as their main owners are not brought to justice, these fraudulent factories will continue to exist and move to other countries. They are still too lucrative.”

Jan Santiago, Deputy Director, Global Anti-Fraud Organization

Some Cambodian experts don’t believe the government’s latest crackdown marks a clear end to a years-long mass scam in the Southeast Asian country.

“This is becoming a diplomatic embarrassment for a country that appears to harbor criminals operating sovereign operations in economic zones,” said Sophal Ear, a Cambodian-American professor at Arizona State University. Forbes.

Likewise, Jan Santiago, the Los Angeles-based deputy director of advocacy group Global Fraud, said he doesn’t expect it to significantly deter scam activity.

“This may temporarily disrupt online scams from Cambodia,” he said in a text message. “As long as their main owners are not brought to justice, these fraudulent factories will continue to exist and move to other countries. They are still too lucrative.”

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Ismail Sabri Yacob Say His government is “very concerned” about the issue and “takes seriously the plight of Malaysians stranded in several countries, including Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.” The prime minister also encouraged Malaysians to “be wary of job opportunities overseas”.

Last month, Cambodian Interior Minister Kheng statement The Cambodian government rescued 865 foreign victims between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20 and handed over 60 for prosecution.

“On behalf of the Royal Government and the National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, I deeply regret and strongly condemn these inhumane acts,” he wrote. “I therefore appreciate and welcome any information from individuals, foreign diplomatic missions and embassies in Cambodia on the above-mentioned cases.”

Cambodia’s ramp-up to combat human trafficking comes weeks after US State Department release downgrade Cambodia in its annual “Human Trafficking” report released in July.

The document concludes that the Cambodian government “has not investigated or prosecuted any officials involved in most credible reports of collusion, particularly the unscrupulous business owners who subject thousands of men, women and children across the country to human trafficking. …in entertainment venues, brick kilns and online scams.”

According to Virak Ou, founder and president of the Forum for the Future, a Cambodian think tank, the Phnom Penh government is now facing a “diplomatic relations nightmare”.

“I don’t think the Cambodian government understands the seriousness of the scam and the other harsh realities of trafficking and money laundering that have been happening,” he said in the text.

Therarith Chan contributed the Khmer translation.

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