60 Vietnamese nationals collectively run for freedom from human traffickers in Cambodia

In the latest incident of the human trafficking crisis in Cambodia, 60 Vietnamese nationals collectively ran for freedom from a Cambodian casino where they were being exploited and held as prisoners.

On Saturday, a group of 60 Vietnamese people fled from a casino under heavy rain in Bavet city in Cambodia’s Svay Rieng province. Four people reportedly failed to escape as they were recaptured by casino guards.

Authorities in Cambodia were later sent out on a recovery mission, where they successfully rescued the four individuals. Cambodian police also managed to rescue 15 more Vietnamese nationals.

On Wednesday, 71 Vietnamese victims were transported back to the Moc Bai International Border Gate in Vietnam’s Tay Ninh Province.

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A woman named Hien, who was one of the four victims who were previously recaptured during their escape, said she was sold to four different casinos during the seven months she was held in Cambodia.

“I’m so happy now that I’m home. I had to work 13 hours per day in the casino and was frequently beaten,” a 30-year-old victim, identified as Cong Thanh, told VnExpress.

The incident marks the second mass escape of Vietnamese nationals from a casino in Cambodia within the course of a month.

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On Aug. 18, 42 Vietnamese victims escaped from the Golden Phoenix casino by swimming across the Binh Di River, with a 16-year-old boy drowning.

Crime syndicates behind the human trafficking operations in Cambodia have targeted individuals from Southeast Asian countries. Thousands of people have been lured by traffickers who promise them “easy jobs with high wages,” when in fact, they are taken to production facilities and casinos and held as prisoners.

The victims are asked to sign contracts and are given quotas. When contracts are breached or quotas are not met, they are beaten or ordered to pay compensation. The victims are only freed if they pay the captors a ransom of up to $30,000.

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Since the beginning of this year, authorities have rescued over 600 Vietnamese nationals who were lured to Cambodian casinos. More than 100 Malaysians and 50 Filipinos who were lured through online scamming and catfishing between January and September this year were also rescued two weeks ago.

“Regional governments and police are way behind on this,” Jeremy Douglas of South East Asia and the Pacific at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, previously told The Straits Times. “The pandemic massively accelerated the move of casinos online as they sought to make up for lost revenues, and we know of many around the region that then did a pivot into fraud scams for additional cash flow. And law enforcement did not see it coming.”


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Featured Image via VnExpress