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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.


Brother Park, Phnom Pehn


How hard are the Chinese Police working?

Note to the Taiwanese - don't say I'm being political. I am not Chinese!


You may have heard of 918, the name given to the September 18 police sweep in Cambodia of the online scam compounds. I know some very responsible Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) officers (i.e. police) in Cambodia. They treat me like family, and they have never said a bad word about Taiwan. The Chinese MPS officers in Cambodia have no law enforcement power. They have to inform Cambodia of everything they do, but in the end they are often stalled by the Cambodian side or the targets are tipped off. Those of you who don't understand how they work, don't say MPS don't arrest anyone. If you give them the power to enforce the law, wouldn't they arrest people? When I talk to them, I can see their desperation, how much they wanted to arrest criminals to bring back to China, how much they wanted to end a few scam compounds. I would like to help but I can't. I am often stuck here by immigration. I hope the Minister of Interior can provide a channel to help these MPS officers to arrest the fraudsters and not to make things difficult for them.


Chinese MPS officers in Cambodia are no different from tourists. Even for them to investigate a case is not a simple matter. They are also human beings, with wives and children at home, but they still take the risk of bringing wanted suspects back to their country. Anyway, corruption in Cambodia is no secret. When in another's place the landlord's rules have to be followed, and Cambodia is a country where US dollars can shield wanted criminals. So long as you have dollars you can even get things done from inside the jail. As long as you have dollars also you can also have Cambodian police keep the MPS from getting the criminal's phones. So long as you have dollars, you are not a wanted criminal. I would like to ask these shady police officers, do you know that while you are helping to destroy evidence, another person may not get justice for your corrupt behavior and let this fraudster continue to defraud more innocents? Can I also beseech you to please not help these people, can I? Just do good and help the MPS for once!


Finally, on behalf of GASO, I salute the MPS men! Thank you for attacking criminality!



The Cambodian Government

I am not sure if you, the Cambodian government, know the desperation and helplessness of scam victims. Maybe you only care about the dollars you receive from the fraud parks. The scams may seem just mere money to you, but it's absolutely not. I've seen many who were scammed to the point where they only had 50 dollars to spend at the 20th of each month, and I've seen people who needed to sell their homes and ended up with no place to live. I've also seen cases of jumping off buildings. It's not easy to walk away from the hurt. These are money the scammers tell victims to borrow from friends, family, loan companies. There is also an American who transferred all the money left by her deceased mother to the scam, and this victim still has no place to live. She is just a student.


I saw one person who fell to the scam because she had to find money for her father's cancer treatment. Her father has now passed away. Do you, the government of Cambodia, know about these stories? You should also know what the fraudsters are doing with the money? To launder money, to sell roads? To eat, drink, shop and buy expensive cars. And these victims still need to figure out how to find money to fill their stomachs every day. One declared bankruptcy and had to pay off her debts for 10 years, and she hadn't eaten seafood in a year. Every day she brings bread to work. Would you like it if all these scams scammed your countrymen in the same way? Would you be comfortable? Would you still want the scams to stay in your country?


I know this article will definitely offend the Cambodian government, but what I want to say is that you government should already know really well your own stench. You just don't want it exposed by the international media to affect your image. If it's image you want, why not learn how to not take shortcuts? If people are well educated, they can help you make money as well. Why don't money from corruption go into the state treasury? Must it really go into your pockets? Or do you all dare say that you didn't earn a dime at all? Who are the ones behind the Pursat Park? Do I have to list them one by one? Don't say everything is a Chinese problem. Who are behind the park? Which generals? Which politicians? If you want to welcome this group of fraudsters, you should know what problems they will bring. Do you think these people will not cause you trouble everywhere? No way! No rich country in the world has a few corrupt governments. To change you need to solve the corruption problem first. In this world, there are only a few 3rd tier countries that will protect wanted criminals.


I stayed in Cambodia for 1 month, the local people I can only say that they are very friendly people, the country is also beautiful, sometimes I see children working at the gas station. My heart hurts because in my country you don't see these things, everyone must go to school. In fact, after staying for a long time, I feel a little sad to leave Cambodia. In this country there are also ordinary people that you don't see. I know it's not possible in the short term, but I hope that one day the government will figure this out. I really hope that this government will consider investing in its own people, and that the country really can't take shortcuts and do criminal activities. As long as the people have room for education, the country will develop.

 

PS

To the Interior Minister and your department - thank you for your efforts over the past few months to help so many people get the chance to go home to their families. It's not easy to send thousands of human trafficking victims back to their families, but at least you are on the side of justice.

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