Posted on: June 23, 2022, 07:25h. 

Last updated on: June 23, 2022, 09:40h.

Cambodia and Vietnam continue to be breeding grounds for criminals who take advantage of job scarcity to attract victims. The latest example involves the trafficking of four people who were sold to casino operators in Cambodia.

Human trafficking in Cambodia
Villagers travel by boat to their home in a floating village on the Tonle Sap River near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The country continues to see human trafficking, especially for the operation of illegal casinos. (Image: UM News)

Local police announced today that they arrested a teenager from central Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa Province for organizing and brokering illegal immigration. Tran Ngoc Chung, a 19-year-old former casino employee, brought four people from his hometown to Cambodia. There, he sold them to casino owners for $650 each.

Tran promised them that he would find them “good jobs” in Cambodia. Instead, according to Thanh Hoa police, the outcome was very different. The casinos forced them to sign agreements to commit cyber fraud and also physically abused them.

Ongoing Plight of Duped Workers

Police have not released details of the four individuals Tran sold. Therefore, it isn’t clear if they are still in captivity or if they have made arrangements to secure their release. In some cases, the criminal organizations will let their victims go if the families pay a ransom.

It’s also not clear where in Cambodia the victims may be. However, Sihanoukville is a well-known breeding ground for widespread criminal activity.

Thanh Hoa authorities found that 27 locals have fallen for the fraudulent casino work scam in Vietnam and Cambodia since April. Of these, police have rescued 19. Another four walked away after their families paid a ransom, while the other four are allegedly still in Cambodia.

From the beginning of 2022 to now, Thanh Hoa Provincial Police have investigated and accused eight people of sending illegal workers to Cambodia. They subsequently dismissed four of these. So far, there have only been two convictions, with those receiving jail time for “organizing, brokering for others to flee to foreign countries or stay illegally abroad.”

Public outcry increased following the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl from Phu Yen, who was on her way to Ho Chi Minh City. She then disappeared before ending up in Cambodia.

The unidentified girl’s family only learned of her whereabouts after someone called demanding a ransom payment. Soon after, the young girl returned safely home. However, as the case developed, more details surfaced. Authorities learned that there were also several other victims who have yet to return to Vietnam.

It’s the Lure of Easy Money

The Phu Yen Provincial Police stated they have received six cases of unexplained disappearances in the entire province since the beginning of the year. All six involved people being lured to Cambodia for a job and a better-than-average salary, only to find out their dream was actually a nightmare.

There was one case in which the family paid VND 69 million (US$2,967) to a Vietnamese person via a bank account. In three of the cases, the individuals returned home on their own. In the remaining two, one received outside help to return home and the other was saved by Cambodian forces.

The criminals use social networks to entice and encourage victims to travel abroad, most often to Cambodia, from Thailand and Vietnam. They promise high salaries and commissions that can range from $800 to $1,000 each month.

In Vietnam, according to Vietnam Online, the average monthly salary in the country is around VND3.45 million (US$150). As a result, the prospect of earning four or five times that amount is too enticing to ignore.

It’s easy to create social media accounts, and platforms like Facebook and others don’t require identity verification. As a result, the criminals delete their digital fingerprints as soon as they bring a new batch of unsuspecting victims across the border. This makes it much more difficult to intercede and track down the groups.