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My Observations 1 month in Cambodia; Current State of Scams

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

I am one of the members of GASO rescue team. I deal with different people and liaison with law enforcement in various countries. I talk to police, discuss how to deal with fraudsters, eliminate crime, and reduce the number of scam and human trafficking victims.

Recently, I had seen many crimes that drove me to despair. I would like to share a few stories with you.

The Cambodian Interior Ministry can get the job done. They are the only Cambodian department that acts on their word. When we provide information to them, the process of rescue basically will take 2-3 days to keep a victim safe and out of danger. Through them we will not be betrayed by police. The Department of Interior is the only department that I feel is reliable. A while back the Interior Minister Sar Kheng expressed displeasure at Pursat provincial police for not acting on human trafficking. Let me take this opportunity to thank the Interior Minister.

Allow me to explain the ordeal of saving a [foreign] human trafficking victim before Sep 18. If the victim have an embassy in Cambodia, we must first report to the embassy first. Once the embassy issues the letter, the local police ideally would open a case. However, local police might not open a case for almost 2 months.

Diplomats from Malaysia are very persistent. They try following through with the Cambodian National Police, and they hope against hope that the National Police will help.

If you are a Chinese human trafficking victim, the Chinese embassy will just tell the victim to contact the local police by themselves. You should know what happens when you contact the local Cambodian police. The word "police" among victims in Cambodia is equal to instantly being sold off to another company. The police will even escort the victim to another park (to work as slave). If you don't have an embassy in Cambodia, lucky you, we need to use other channels:

  1. Unless you have been raped or bleeding, the Police Secretary General won’t save you. When you get rescued, the police will not care about the rapist.

  2. Ask a local person or friend to register a case. When the case is opened, the police should go to the scam compound / park to save you. You better have evidence that you've been trafficked. If you can't establish it, just wait to be sold to human traffickers.

  3. Bribe the police.

  4. Contact the military police (although we’ve been cheated once)

  5. Negotiate with the owners or management of the scam compound

We can use the above methods. But doing these too much and their costs will increase. We avoid using money to solve the problem. If we are giving money to the police, we incentive embezzlement and worsen the situation. Next time, a victim needs help, the related party will raise the ransom.

Fast forward to the current state....

Once the Interior Ministry receives a report, they will inform the provincial police to rescue the victim. Upon rescue, the police will send the victim to Phnom Penh to await notification from their embassy. They recently asked for a $300 tip for travel expenses. Previously, the police took the human trafficking victims' passports back from the scam compound. However, these days they would not get their passports, which puzzles me. This all will result in the victim being treated as an illegal alien. Victims without passports stay longer. A lot of them were stuck for 2-3 months between August and October. The situation has improved a lot recently, and rescuees aren’t detained for as long.

It's really hard to be a human trafficking victim there these days. Basically, the scammers and human traffickers are not arrested by the police. But human trafficking victims who have been conned need to stay in prison while the scammers continue living like kings and scamming more. Chen Bao Rong (founder of now-shut China-Cambodia Charity team) has saved many Chinese victims in Cambodia but has been imprisoned. He ended up getting in trouble with the Cambodian government.

If the perpetrators are not being arrested, can we at least sympathize with these victims? If your sons were treated at the same way, what would you feel? Many Malaysians, Taiwanese and Chinese have reported to us that they were told by police to change their official statements into saying they simply did not want to work anymore, and they were not trafficked. Unless victims change their statements, they would not be able to go home. You “policemen” are really incredible, how can you say such things?

Generally rescued people will be granted to go to these two areas, I will start with the Phnom Penh Detention Center.

Phnom Penh Quarantine Center

Phnom Penh Isolation Centre is cleaner, and the police there aren’t corrupt. You're lucky if you are sent here. The police here are approachable and don't ask for tips from victims. I was very pleasantly surprised when I went there for the first time. I didn't have to pay tip. Once while I was waiting for someone there, I witnessed scam syndicate men just right by the station's entrance brazenly (re-)kidnapping the released victims who are coming out. Luckily then the police stopped and arrested the would-be kidnappers.

Phnom Penh Immigration Office

Photo above was taken by one of our rescued victim

Corruption in this area is rather serious. You have to give an entrance fee of $2.50 before you can enter. Then, for example, you want to take medicine, noodles, etc., to give to the detainees inside, another tip. If you don't give, you won't get what you want. Almost every detainee there told us that if you want to use the phone you have to pay about $200-400 depending on what country you are from. Malaysians and Indians pay $200. China and Taiwan pays $400. To get a bed with fan is another payment. You can get out and go home early, just give a few thousand USD, up to $10,000, and you can go.

See Vice World News: They Thought Their Human Trafficking Nightmare Was Over. Then Came the Police.

Visa Expiration Fee

There is a fine of $10 per day of visa expiration. Should this money be claimed or waived for trafficking victims? How can these victims get out of the country at all? Whose problem is it that many were being sold off by the police before? Cambodia's current attitude is still to ask the victims to pay. Some victims are truly unable to pay, so they cannot go home. So I said, well, these days it is the syndicates that are benefitting the most. The victims are not only locked up, but also have to find a way to pay their way out?

The Scam Compounds in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville

I have been to the scam compounds in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville many times before Cambodia ordered the police to flush them out. It was apparent that the technology parks felt much quieter now, but I still see a lot of Chinese faces bringing cars of people, like Vietnamese and Thais, into the park. There are still people working inside, but I do not believe the government's claim of these compounds being just "normal" companies. I guess the normal part is that they do not beat people, and voluntarily working for the company is justifiable. Sihanoukville is also more or less the same, minus the cries of misery, minus all those armed security guards.