Posted on: December 26, 2023, 12:01h.
Last updated on: December 26, 2023, 01:05h.
Cambodian authorities have arrested a group of Thai nationals on allegations of criminal mischief and arson. They reject the assertion of the nine people that they were victims of human trafficking tied to false promises of high-paying casino jobs.
Cambodian authorities issued a statement late last week to counter Thai media claims regarding the rescued individuals. They stated that the allegation that the individuals had been coerced into engaging in illicit activities in Poipet was a lie.
Instead, according to the authorities, the individuals were willing participants in an attempted arson attack. That fire, which didn’t cause serious damage, was the alleged result of an altercation between the Thai nationals.
How it Began
Cambodian authorities entered a residence in Poipet, responding to the claims made by the nine Thai individuals who said they had been set on fire during desperate attempts to flee from an illegal call center syndicate.
Thai media outlets had reported that these individuals had illicitly entered Cambodia with the assurance of employment opportunities in casinos. Instead, they were allegedly ensnared by local criminal factions operating within a property dedicated to conducting illegal online and telephone scams.
When the Cambodian authorities entered the property, they found another group of 17 individuals from Thailand consisting of seven men and 10 women. Subsequently, the police took them all into custody and transferred them to a local police station for questioning.
Cambodian authorities confirm that nine Thai individuals had engaged in a violent altercation within a local building, leading to the deliberate arson of the premises. They then resorted to aggression against workers who attempted to intervene, according to the Cambodian version of the events.
That version also insists that, fearing potential legal repercussions, the group of nine crossed into Thailand near the Ban Klong Luk port in the Sa Kaeo province. This included having to pass through a barbed wire fence, resulting in injuries. The group claimed the injuries were the result of their treatment when they were caught in the act of crossing the border.
Denying the Denial
A human rights group in the region, People Network in Sa Kaeo province, refutes the Cambodian authorities’ claims. It has said that it received distress calls from approximately 30 people, all victims of human trafficking, who managed to flee the building where the nine Thai workers were forced to participate in illegal telephone scams.
It added that the human trafficking network is run by a Chinese man they have only identified as Ah Wang, possibly a fake name. He has allegedly orchestrated numerous murders and violent crimes tied to the outfit, and specifically targets Thai laborers in Cambodia.
People Network added that the group of nine Thai individuals had managed to flee and had informed the Thai authorities of what was happening. That led to the Thai media outlet reports and also revealed that there could be another 200 Thai nationals trapped in the same organization.
During their time in Cambodia, the individuals recounted instances of intimidation and physical violence. They said they also witnessed other Thai nationals being killed for refusing to participate in the fraudulent telephone schemes.
Cambodia has repeatedly asserted that it’s working diligently to shed its image of tolerance to human trafficking and scams. If the claims the nine Thai nationals have made can be verified, it would be a step backward for Cambodia’s assertions.