top of page

Trafficked Taiwanese rescued from a scam company in Cambodia... was it worth it?

Updated: Aug 25, 2022


  • GASO, along with journalists and anti-human trafficking NGOs, embarked on a rescue mission of a Taiwanese citizen trapped working for a scam company in Dara Sakor, Cambodia

  • Unhelpfulness of local authorities

  • Indians and Bangladeshis are tricked also by Chinese scam companies

  • How rescuee was recruited in the first place by a long-known friend

  • As the rescuee recounts his experiences, questions are raised about his own role in his circumstances

  • Who owns Dara Sakor?

Properties in Long Bay, Dara Sakor developed by Chinese businessmen

Zhen Xu (alias) is a Taiwanese trapped working for a scam company in Long Bay inside a Chinese development property in Dara Sakor, Koh Kong province of Cambodia. The company targets Americans, Europeans, and lately Japanese for pig-butchering scams. Zhen Xu was able to reach out online to his father in Taiwan, who reached out to Taiwanese anti-scam YouTuber Bump who then passed on his case to GASO. Since some GASO members at the time were attending a UN-sponsored summit of human rights and anti-human trafficking NGOs, GASO took Zhen Xu's case as an opportunity to expose the scam industry in Southeast Asia.

In the lead up to the rescue, the father contacted Taiwanese authorities for help about his son. On June 9 an entourage of GASO, journalists from VOD, Cambodian human rights organization ADHOC, the China-Cambodia Charity Team, Bump's team, and finally, Zhen Xu's father set out to Dara Sakor, about 9 hours drive from Phnom Penh. They brought along something that would hopefully make things easier: an official letter from Taiwanese diplomats to the Cambodian government asking for assistance in freeing their trapped citizen.

Letter from the de facto Taiwanese embassy in Vietnam. (Taiwan doesn't have a diplomatic office in Cambodia, and so the one in Vietnam is the closest one)

The next morning June 10 the rescue mission presented themselves to the local police station with their letter. The police processed them for 1.5 hours, including taking pictures of everyone in the group. Fortunately, they all the group all kept their face masks on, as it was later found out that all their pictures were sent to the scam compound management within an hour. This was all the assistance the group got.

The local police station the group went to.

As Zhen Xu recounted later, the scam company bosses first panicked when the police told them that someone with an embassy letter was looking for a Zhen Xu. The bosses then immediately demanded Zhen Xu pay the customary "redemption fee" of $7,000, which Zhen Xu promptly paid. (Some form of exit fee is a common practice among Chinese scam companies, supposedly for acquiring, transporting and housing the employee.) The management also pushed Zhen Xu to quickly pack up to leave, or he will bring bad reputation to the company. On the side however the bosses tried arranging for another scam company in Sihanoukville, Cambodia to pick Zhen Xu up --basically selling him (another common practice).

Zhen Xu heard of the plan to sell him to another scam company, so he took his time in packing his things and making himself hard to find. The 3pm pick-up time for the Sihanoukville company came and passed without Zhen Xu leaving. All the while, the scam company boss got ahold of the father by phone and demanded ransom. The father instead threatened back that he knows people in high places, that international media is going to be watching them, and that they're already right there in the compound's vicinity.

Geolocation of the rescue team, and the purported location of the subject

By the next afternoon on June 11, the company boss decided to try letting Zhen Xu out. Not wanting to be seen, the company management asked a compound security guard to accompany Zhen Xu to the agreed-upon location at a round-about. Midway the boss changed his mind and texted both of them to come back, but by then Zhen Xu was outside. He ignored the order and never returned.

Reunion of the father and son