Thai police rescue 700 Thais from Chinese debt bondage in Cambodia

Royal Thai Police recently rescued 700 Thais from compounds run by Chinese criminal gangs in Cambodia, where Thais lured into financial phone scams are held against their will in debt bondage, Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday.

“Together with our Cambodian counterparts, we have managed to rescue a total of 700 Thais so far,” Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, a senior Thai police officer, told Al Jazeera for an April 13 report.

“We have issued human trafficking warrants against international organized gangs as well as prosecuted brokers who smuggled Thais through illegal border crossings into Cambodia,” he further revealed.

Hakparn referred to a form of racketeering overseen by Chinese nationals in China (at the highest levels) and others on the ground in Cambodia who work to ultimately scam Thai nationals out of thousands of dollars over the phone.

“Authorities say the fraud has been carried out on an industrial scale, defrauding Thais of millions of dollars since the start of the pandemic,” Al Jazeera noted on Wednesday.

The organized crime syndicate recruits Thai nationals to pose as police or customs officers over the phone, pressuring fellow Thais to electronically transfer large sums of money to Chinese gangs under false pretenses.

Chinese gang leaders lure many Thais into the process by first visiting them in their often impoverished villages in Thailand, which borders Cambodia. Chinese nationals are convincing poor Thais to travel to neighboring Cambodian border towns with the empty promise of lucrative work through online sales jobs. Instead of finding new opportunities to improve their lives, most Thais who accept bogus Chinese recruiters’ offer to move to Cambodia find themselves trapped in guarded compounds where they are forced to scam Thai nationals out of their savings by phone every day. . Most Thai victims are unable to escape the environment because Chinese gang leaders impose exorbitant “fees” on them to secure their release as a form of debtor bondage.

A Thai couple who recently escaped one such crime syndicate in the Cambodian seaside town of Sihanoukville told Al Jazeera about their harrowing experience for their April 13 report.

Dao (a woman) and Teerapat (a man) said they were approached by Chinese nationals posing as job recruiters in their Thai hometown with an offer of work in online sales in the nearby Cambodian border town by Poipet. When they accepted the offer, however, the Chinese nationals drove them further into Cambodia, to the coastal town of Sihanoukville.

Detailing the couple’s ordeal after arriving in “criminalized” Sihanoukville, Al Jazeera wrote:

Teerapat and Dao allege they were ordered to stay inside a guarded 12-story compound where Chinese “bosses” gave their instructions through an interpreter. Their “work” was quickly revealed to be a scam, according to interviews with the couple and corroborating police information.

Instead of selling online, Teerapat and Dao say they were asked to make unsolicited phone calls posing as customs officials, police or potential investors seeking a wire transfer.

The couple allege they each had to scam at least 500,000 baht ($15,000) each month along with dozens of other people in the compound, while facing the threat of being sold to another gang they couldn’t figure out the numbers.

“The company [in Sihanoukville] earns around 10 million baht ($300,000) a day,” Teerapat told Al Jazeera on April 13.

“They are scamming thousands of Thai people every day and these guys own four different branches of this call center in Cambodia,” Dao revealed.

A joint Thai and Cambodian police force successfully raided a phone scam operation in Preah Sihanouk, the province of which Sihanoukville is the capital, on March 20, the Bangkok Post reported.

“Police arrested 28 people at the abandoned factory, including three suspected gang leaders – two Chinese nationals and a Thai man identified as Pornsak Reephol. They were charged with collusion in public fraud, unlawful assembly and money laundering. money,” the newspaper revealed.

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