Indonesians Held by Chinese Syndicates in Cambodia Freed by Police

Cambodian authorities have rescued as many as 44 Indonesian nationals held hostage by Chinese syndicates. The gangs forced them to work in a number of illegal gambling enterprises before the government intervened.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia, seen above, is a haven for criminal activity. Fortunately, a group of 44 Indonesians has escaped its clutches. (Image: The Times)
Sihanoukville, Cambodia, seen above, is a haven for criminal activity. Fortunately, a group of 44 Indonesians has escaped its clutches. (Image: The Times)

The Khmer Times reports that the release of the Indonesians came after days of negotiations that involved careful coordination with Cambodian law enforcement agencies, as well as the Indonesian Embassy in Phnom Penh.

The report stated that more than 30 of the 44 had “gone through a harrowing period when they were “traded like cattle” by one online gambling network from Sihanoukville to another in Chrey Thum.

Cambodia, particularly the city of Sihanoukville, is notorious for how the city operates. In some ways, it’s on the same level, if not worse, than Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Fortunately, a group of Indonesians has escaped the city’s grasp.

Sihanoukville is a popular city for Chinese investors along Cambodia’s south coast. Its organized crime reputation and illegal gambling are its claims to fame. Chrey Thum is near the Vietnamese border on Cambodia’s southeast frontier.

Indonesian Captives Finally Taste Freedom

The Indonesians had to work 12 hours per day, according to the media outlet. Threats from the company were a common occurrence if they did not reach a certain number of victims.

If the recruited workers failed to reach the bare minimum, their lives became a living hell. In order to leave the company, the syndicate operators demanded that the workers or their families pay between US$3,000 and $5,000 as compensation money to be released,” the media outlet reported.

To lure people into fraud investment schemes involving cryptocurrency, foreign exchange, and shares, the individuals created fake profiles on Tinder and WhatsApp.

Corruption Makes Reducing Crime a Challenge

Analysts believe corruption and weak law enforcement are hindering local police efforts to crack down on human trafficking. The victims responded to false promises of regular jobs that would pay higher wages.

In December 2019, the Cambodian government outlawed online gambling. This sparked a massive exodus of Chinese from Sihanoukville. The COVID-19 pandemic then erupted and forced Cambodia to close its borders.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation conducted an investigation last September. It found that tourists and foreign workers left in Cambodia by the pandemic became targets of human traffickers who forced them into working in sophisticated scams run by China.

They were mostly from Africa and Asia. They claimed that they had to create fake profiles on Tinder and WhatsApp to lure people into fraud investment schemes involving cryptocurrency, foreign exchange, and shares.

On November 1, 2021, Cambodia reopened to tourists and foreign businesses. Since then, both Chinese and Westerners began to return. Despite the fact that crime is still low, there has been an increase in reported cases.

Hostage Doubts

Recently, three Cambodians claimed criminal gangs forced them to work in online gambling. This claim has sounded the alarm about possible forced labor cases in Sihanoukville.

A Chinese man told police that he was held hostage, had his blood drained excessively, and then was sold by a gang from Sihanoukville in February.

There have been some doubts about those claims. Cambodian police told the Chinese embassy that the investigation into the case proved it was a hoax. However, given the amount of corruption and bribery that takes place there, the jury is still out.

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