There are an unknown number of hundreds of Taiwanese victims who have been held captive and forced to work in telecommunications scam networks by human trafficking operations in Southeast Asia, officials said.
Police forces in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Macau and Vietnam have launched massive operations to rescue their citizens and shut down smuggling gangs.
The smugglers, many associated with the well-known triad, are targeting mostly young Asians via social media, offering well-paying and housing in countries including Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Upon arrival, their passports are taken and they are often sold to various groups and forced to work in offices running illegal phone or online scams.
The largest group of victims appears to be from Vietnam and Taiwan. Taiwanese officials say nearly 5,000 citizens have been recorded traveling to Cambodia and not returning. Police said they had identified at least 370 of them as having been caught against their will, but victims have said the number is likely to be much higher.
At least 46 people have returned to Taiwan in recent months, with some reporting that they or others were forced to sign contracts, and were assaulted, raped, given food and water. denied, and often threatened. Rescue operations in Cambodia have been hampered or complicated by inadequate policing and corruption. Separate reports say the perpetrators include Taiwanese, Chinese, Thai and Cambodian individuals.
Reports of a smuggling ring in Asia have surfaced widely in recent weeks. last week a Viral video allegedly for showing Dozens of Vietnamese people fleeing a casino just inside the Cambodian border. Crowds of people were chased by guards wielding sticks as they fled a building and jumped into a river and swam to the border with Vietnam. A 16-year-old reportedly drowned in the escape.
Yu Tang, a young Taiwanese woman who did not want her surname to be published, told the Guardian that in April she was contacted via Facebook by a Taiwanese woman who found her in a group of people seeking work. He was offered work overseas in call or support centers for the online gaming and casino industries. When he expressed doubts he offered to pay for the return flight and agreed to meet him in person.
“I didn’t believe them but then we met in public,” she said. Yu Tang said, the man appeared “normal”. She agreed to take the job and met different individuals at the airport, as well as many others looking for work.
They met again at Phnom Penh airport, who “said they were travel agents but looked like gangsters”. Agents took the groups’ passports, claiming it was to settle the SIM cards, but did not return them.
“I knew if I wanted to call for help, I needed a SIM card,” Yue Tang said. “At that moment we were imagining that we would be sold.”
All records of conversations with the smugglers were erased from the victims’ phones, Yu Tang said, and they were taken to Sihanoukville and told they would work in a phone scam operation. He was also told that he would have to enlist others to pay US$17,000 if he wanted to be released. Yue Tang said that when a man resisted, he was knocked unconscious and stunned with a stun gun. He said the man remained on Taiwan’s missing people list.
Yu Tang said she was able to obtain a SIM and immediately began researching the smuggling operation, finding details of the office of a local politician, whom she contacted via Facebook.
The next day police and army officials reached the spot to pick him up. She alleged that the boss offered to pay her to “pretend to be nothing”, but she refused. She has since returned to Taiwan.
Yu Tang said he believed many more Taiwanese were stranded in Cambodia than officials confirmed, adding that at least 50 others were held in the same office where they were taken , and this area was full of similar buildings. She said that many people were forced to sign contracts that would be shown to any official who questioned a person’s position, and that people were afraid to speak for long periods of time.
“The longer they stayed, the more terrible things they heard and saw, and the more scared they were,” she said.
Now back in Taiwan, Yu Tang states that he is frequently approached by the families of victims and potential victims, asking for his assistance to help them escape, and his inside knowledge sought by the police. Is. Yu said he has helped eight people return to Taiwan so far.
Taiwanese police say they have arrested at least 67 people in connection with the smuggling racket, 16 of them allegedly linked to local gangs on Monday.
Taiwan’s defense efforts have been complicated by the lack of a diplomatic presence in Cambodia, as the country’s government recognizes Beijing’s disputed claim over Taiwan as a province. On Friday, the Chinese embassy issued a statement saying it would assist “Taiwan compatriots” who claimed they were Chinese nationals. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it would “never outsource” [consular assistance] to another country” but the Mainland Affairs Council said it was in communication with China on the issue. Among other efforts, Taiwanese police patrol the international airport with signs, inquiries and warnings to passengers traveling to Cambodia. Still working.
Hong Kong police said last week that five people had been arrested, as authorities set up a task force to help more than 30 identified victims. China said it was working with Cambodian authorities to rescue victims and recently rescued 60 minors, including some from sexual slavery. Cambodia’s deputy national police chief General Chhaya Sinarith said Cambodian authorities had uncovered several illegal online schemes targeting foreign workers and arrested hundreds of people from China and Taiwan.
Cambodia’s interior minister, Sir Kheng, said on Friday that his ministry would launch a nationwide investigation into the condition of foreigners working or living in hotels, rental properties and casinos.
Xiaoqian Zhu . Additional reporting by