Posted on: August 19, 2022, 07:34h. 

Last updated on: August 19, 2022, 11:02h.

There is a growing number of witnesses that can testify to the atrocities of human trafficking at casinos in Cambodia. Dozens of people just swam across a river from Cambodia to Vietnam, where they told border guards of their slave-like lives.

Vietnamese nationals
A group of Vietnamese nationals waits to speak with police. 40 escaped slave-like living conditions in Cambodia, where they were forced to work for illegal gambling operators. (Image: Vietnamese Border Patrol)

Online newspaper VN Express explains that border guards in Vietnam’s An Giang Province encountered 40 people who crossed the Binh Di River. The individuals had launched a mass escape from several Cambodian casinos that had held them against their will.

Some of those individuals the border guards encountered made a stark revelation. While 40 successfully made the journey, two didn’t. One apparently drowned in the attempt, and the owners of the casino recaptured another.

Cambodia’s Corrupt Casinos

There were 35 men and five women who sought assistance from Vietnamese border guards as they swam ashore. The individuals had to cross a river that is at least 70 meters (229 feet) at its narrowest point.

In conversations with the police, the freedom-seekers said that they had gone to Cambodia on the promise of good-paying jobs. Instead, they began working at different casinos in the area, including in those properties’ online gambling divisions.

However, instead of a better life with a decent salary, they found deplorable conditions. They were forced to work long hours and didn’t receive any pay. In some cases, the workday lasted 16-20 hours with no breaks.

The testimony the individuals gave corroborates previous reports out of Cambodia. There has been an increase in the number of illegal operations taking place that make use of slave labor. At the same time, the government isn’t living up to its promise to crack down on those operations.

Since the beginning of the year, around 250 people have been rescued from similar conditions in Cambodia. They either found a way to cross a border, received assistance from voluntary organizations, or paid a ransom.

The amount someone pays to earn his or her freedom varies. In some cases, it can be as little as $1,000-$2,000. In others, they have had to pay as much as $30,000.

Escape Not Always an Option

Given that the average salary in Vietnam is around $3,100 a year, coming up with that much money is difficult for most. As a result, the kidnapped individuals continue to suffer, working to pay down the ransom amount to earn their freedom.

This is the case of a man from Hong Kong who recently fell into the trap. He thought he was going to Cambodia for a good-paying job at a casino, but quickly learned that it was a scam.

The 22-year-old came across an ad on Facebook earlier this year. The lure of working as a croupier, earning $25,000 a month plus bonuses, was too enticing to resist.

A week later, he was on a plane from Hong Kong to Cambodia. After he arrived, “casino representatives” picked him up and drove him to his new home. He then handed over his passport, per the representatives’ request, before he received a tour of his new job.

Instead of a casino, he found a cybercafe. Instead of gaming tables, he found computers. He had fallen victim to a common scheme in Cambodia. His new role was acting like a female on the phone in order to seduce men into gambling online.

He tried to leave, but his captors told him he would need to pay $10,000 and reimburse them for all the money they spent to bring him to Cambodia. Since they weren’t paying him, it was impossible to meet the demand. Instead, the captors kept him in a locked, guarded room when he wasn’t working.

A Happy Ending

Eventually, he managed to get a call out to his mother in Hong Kong. She, in turn, contacted the police. A week later, Cambodian authorities raided the facility and gave all of the victims their freedom.

However, that is the exception, not the rule. Even though at least 250 people have gained their liberty, there are reports of thousands more still working as slaves in illegal casinos and call centers across Cambodia.

Vietnam, China, and others have increased their efforts to warn people not to fall for the scams. However, the criminals always find new methods. If they’re not promising high-paying jobs, they’re using sex to attract new victims. Either way, only increased efforts by Cambodia will help eliminate the problems.