Thai and Cambodian police have rescued Thai nationals held captive by a gang operating a phone scam center in Cambodia.
According to assistant national police chief Pol Lt-General Surachate Hakparn, a raid jointly conducted by the Royal Thai Police and Cambodian authorities rescued 24 Thai nationals from a phone scamming gang in Sihanoukville.
In joint operations on April 10 and 11, Thai and Cambodian police rescued the workers from call centres in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Krong Bavet on the border with Vietnam.
Victims told police they were deceived into joining the gang with promises of online sales jobs that included lodging and transportation. Facing financial issues due to the ongoing pandemic, they accepted the offer and later found themselves imprisoned inside guarded buildings.
Each captive Thai said they were forced to ’scam’ other people thousands of dollars per month, or face being sold to another gang if they could not reach those targets.
Pol Lt-General Surachate stated that the gang targets poor villagers who are in need of income between harvest seasons. Many people are duped into forced labor in factories and on fishing boats, or, more recently, in scam centers, where they are exploited by criminal syndicates and are unable to escape.
They were screened for Covid-19 and grouped into two categories, said assistant national police chief, Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn.
One group was for those seen as victims lured by the gangs to work illegally in Cambodia. The other group was for those who colluded with the gangs, which had defrauded victims in Thailand.
After responding to job adverts posted online, these people had crossed illegally into Cambodia where they were taken to call centre gangs’ dens in Phnom Penh or Preah Sihanouk and Bavet in Svay Rieng.
Khmer Times reported that Police officials speaking on conditions of anonymity said that with the number of Thais rescued, numbering close to 800, there are probably up to 2,000 or more Thais still working willingly or otherwise in these call centres.
Surachate affirmed that authorities from both countries will continue working together to safely return all scam victims to Thailand and bring those responsible for the crime to justice.