Human trafficking is even more rampant in Cambodia due to Covid-19

Earlier, we published our post to discuss that human trafficking would be more serious in Covid-19, and sadly, it is happening as we have predicted. Recently, many people from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and even Hong Kong have been lured into Cambodia for high salaries and good working benefits, but it turns out to be forced labor, and some believe it also involves sexual exploitation and forced organ removal.

In Cambodia, there’s a place called Sihanoukville, located west of Cambodia, which is a landmark construction site for China’s “Belt and Road” policy. Sihanoukville was originally a small fishing village in Cambodia, but the Cambodian government chose to set up a special economic zone in 2016 to attract investment, and also opened up the operation of casinos. Under the promotion of the Belt and Road policy, hundreds of Chinese enterprises have entered Sihanoukville, also attracting a large number of gangsters/mafias and speculators to invest in the region. At the same time, corruption, fraud, violence, and other problems have also spread rapidly. Some online gambling companies are affiliated with licensed casino companies to carry out illegal online gambling business operations, and a large number of Chinese people have been deceived in Sihanoukville to engage in online gambling fraud.

However, in August 2019, the Cambodian government issued the “Gambling Prohibition Order”, which seized all illegal online gambling activities and revoked the casino license. That’s when they started to transform online gambling into a form of fraud, and used high salaries as bait to lure young people to do online fraud work for them. Since the implementation of COVD-19 restrictions, gangsters and mafias have been able to lure more people from Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and even Hong Kong, because of the unstable economy and high unemployment rate.

According to Taiwanese media, around 4000 Taiwanese (later the government confirmed up to 377) have recently been duped into working for Cambodia-based fraud through fake job advertisements, and Taiwanese victims are estimated to account for about 5%. The Hong Kong government has identified at least 20 Hong Kongers suspected of being lured to Southeast Asian countries, and 12 confirmed safe. Of the people lured to Cambodia, 99 percent were recruited to work in telecom scams while a few were trafficked for sexual exploitation and organ removal.

With the impact of Covid-19 and high inflation, it becomes more and more difficult for people to survive, especially in developing countries. At the same time, gangsters and mafias use this as an opportunity to attract more people with a promising future — high salaries, a nice working environment, and low living costs, and people are more likely to take risks, particularly those young people with little to no work experience. To combat human trafficking, as an individual, think twice about the steps you will take, research about the country or place that will provide you with jobs, discuss with your family and friends, and seek help when you realize you have been trafficked. As a government, there should be enough information to increase public awareness, assist victims to escape, and provide training and technical assistance for law enforcement officials to track and take down criminal groups.


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Originally published at on August 19, 2022.



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