Updated: Aug 15
Malaysian was misled to Cambodia in April 2022 through a JobStreet job ad, complete with interviews and assurances of government certification
He was trapped inside Victory Paradise Resort in Sihanoukville, Cambodia with thousands of others to run online scams
He was caught recording evidence and asking for outside help, and so was punished by starvation, isolation, humiliation and being forced to act while being recorded
After escaping back to Malaysia he shared his experiences in social media --and in a popular talk show in June 2022
He immediately got a phone call from a "mediator" from a Malaysian political party telling him to publicly retract, followed by a lawsuit from the HR company.
He got support from Members of Parliament and distinguished public figures in a press release
But the lawsuit is still proceeding --and is likely to succeed in getting him impoverished and further in debt.
Disclaimer: This article is based on the accounts of Bilce Tan and others, which has been featured partly in Guang Ming Daily, Kwongwah and Kosmo. He was among those interviewed also by Vice Media and Al Jazeera. This is his full story.
Video from Vice Media International
PART 1: The Cambodia Job
Bilce Tan (陈万庆 or Tan Ban Kheng in Malaysian), 41, father of one, is an ethnic Chinese Malaysian and was a manufacturing plant manager in China. He returned to Malaysia in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployed since then, he found an appealing ad in a popular job board JobStreet.com for a Business Development Lead position in Cambodia, promising RM12,000 a month, plus commission, accommodation, food and airfare. He is not naïve to job scams and human trafficking there, but was won over by 4 phone and video interviews through Microsoft Teams with the recruiter W------ T--, the HR manager A----- W--- and the staffing company owner C---- L--, all Malaysians. The company claims to be local Penang (Malaysian state) based, and that the job was assuredly Penang government certified. The interviewers also said, how could a fellow Penang Malaysian deceive another Penang Malaysian?
Accepting the job offer, Bilce flew to Phnom Penh on May 6, 2022. He was picked up in a large Alphard multi-purpose vehicle by a man, who was later joined by 3 more men at a gas station. He soon realized in the 5-hour car ride that his situation was quickly becoming dire. The men did not allow him to ask questions and only said that they were going to Sihanoukville. Just sit tight, they said, he'll find out when they all get there. They eventually arrived to a site with a seeming over-abundance of uniformed guards, long guns and barbed wires. The guards did a full body check on him. This compound will serve his prison for the next 3 weeks. He was housed in a hostel and not allowed to leave his dorm block at night, supposedly because it is dangerous outside.
His given assignment turned out entirely different from what was discussed in his job interview. In a word, scamming. He was provided 2 days of training in (i.) transferring (scammed) money from a local bank to overseas, (ii.) conducting love and job schemes, (iii.) becoming familiar with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and (iv.) using their gambling website. His salary also turned out much lower, supposedly because he is still under probation and the company first needs to see his KPIs (Key Performance Indicator). He was charged to drive "customers" online into their fake gambling website, using some given scripts as guide. However, he could not stomach this so-called work as he felt it plain unconscionable, but the management gently warned him to just go along, since Bilce owes the company his air fare, lodging and other living expenses.
This is clearly illegal, he believes. Having foresight and an eye towards justice, he started secretly documenting on his phone the criminal activities inside. He took lots of photos, videos, the company's scam target lists and many other damning evidences. He actually had 3 phones, and he uploaded all evidences in his Google Drive and WeChat drive. The place is called Victory Paradise Resort & Casino in Sihanoukville, owned by the Prince group, a consortium of Chinese and Malaysian businessmen. Bilce reckoned there were about 7,000 people inside, with the majority being mainland Chinese, and the rest being Malaysian, Singaporean, Vietnamese and Indonesians. He found out that many are fugitives from their country's police, but also many are like him, tricked and trapped in these compounds. Inside he saw are many scams companies, and so are drugs, prostitutes and gambling aplenty. However, the majority of the work there allegedly comes from relationship investment frauds conducted on a massive scale.
Provided picture inside Victory Paradise Resort from social media.
Unfortunately, one midnight Bilce texted and called his family and a friend, when he thought would be safe. It was a mistake. Somehow the company management discovered and soon 7 - 8 people banged into his dorm room, pressed him to the ground, searched everywhere --and found all his 3 devices. They threw him to a chair, slapped him and forced him to show all his devices' and account's passwords. Afterwards they locked him for what seems like 2 days in a small, smelly, dark room with no lights, where he would all eat, sleep, pee and defecate. All he gets are plates of white rice, nothing else.
The punishment took a strange turn. Bilce was let out, and told to strip his shirt, pants and underwear. They took a video recording of him naked. Afterwards, he was told to do some acting for the camera. He would come out of a car, dressed, say hi to a camera, hug some people, and bring a luggage up some stairs like it was his first time. There were many takes of this. The purpose was as a stand-by video to "prove" that he came to Victory Paradise Resort willingly. All he could do was go along and pray. Finally, the management told him that they will sell him to another compound, getting him further in debt, if he does more rebellious things.
This part will be deliberately vague to protect methods and potentially lives. In what can be described as a miracle, Blice was able to escape. Needless to say it was very risky, and Blice recounts that fellow trafficking victims from Singapore and Vietnam were too scared to join him. Someone Blice calls an angel drove him to the airport and he was able to fly back home to Malaysia on May 28.
PART II: The Malaysian Party
Upon arriving in Malaysia Bilce persistently filed police reports --3 times. As all 3 of his phones were left in Cambodia with his captors, Bilce found that they accessed and changed some passwords of his Gmail, Yahoo mail, Facebook, WeChat, China Bank e-wallet and all other online accounts. As a matter of course they emptied all his remaining money in his bank accounts. To Bilce's knowledge, the Malaysian police hasn't taken up his case. How can he show there was a crime? The transactions were authorized from his personal devices when he was in Cambodia, and it is a foreign jurisdiction.
For a time Bilce could log in to his Facebook account, and he posted his experiences and naming names, which quickly became viral in Malaysia and Singapore. He was invited to appear in Malaysian TV channel 8tv for their daytime talk show Living Delight to recount his experiences, which made even more waves. Bilce told the show his horrifying experiences as above in more detail. Other human trafficking victims were also interviewed, but anonymously. Accompanying them was their advocate Datuk Seri Michael Chong, who is the longtime head of the Public Services and Complaints Department of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and is famous for being the go-to man for issues of the common people and lately, cyber scams. (Datuk Seri is a bestowed honorary title in Malaysia, similar to English "Sir".)
Still shot 6-17-22 episode of Living Delight https://youtu.be/4leyFpwDWgY?t=655
To the left in green is Blice Tan, and seated next to his right is Datuk Seri Michael Chong
The very next day, Bilce got a phone call from someone introducing himself as a mediator in the supposed dispute between him and some aggrieved party in Cambodia. Although, Bilce felt that instead of listening, the mediator sidestepped and downplayed Bilce's grievances as not as important as keeping the peace. The other party claimed that it was Bilce who willingly cheated and stole RM200,000 from the company, though the mediator was seemingly evasive in naming who. In typical Malaysian Chinese peppered with English words, the mediator said he only wants to help Bilce avoid any "legal action" and wants to get this "case closed". He offered to arrange a press release with Bilce publicly retracting his statement and apologizing for the 'misunderstanding' or made up. All legal troubles will go away and MCA will personally guarantee Bilce's and his family's safety.
The mediator later revealed himself to be a minor MCA party official in Penang (MCA is a major political party in Malaysia.) If Bilce wants to find him, he said he is the famous 跳河哥 (jump river brother), so dubbed because of him jumping into a river to highlight its pollution --which points to a Cheah Chin Woon. Chin appears to know more information about Bilce's time in Cambodia, mentioning even that the other party has videos 'proving' that Bilce was happy in Cambodia. The entire conversation felt circular and very patronizing to Bilce. In any case, Bilce recorded the conversation: [listen]
As Bilce garnered spotlight from his appearance on TV, an unknown social media user tipped him that the syndicate is appointing someone to file a civil lawsuit against Bilce to discredit and silence him, incredibly, using profits from scamming activities.
The very next day, GASO saw that one of the persons Bilce named on Facebook, recruiter W------ T--, replied to one of Bilce's posts, attaching an legal letter in English. She apparently also served the letter via WhatsApp to another Facebook user that used to tag some goverment agencies and media in the post ( in order to have their attention and give some assistance ) also has been sue for defamation . The user was not involved in making Bilce's posts go viral. (He personally does not know Bilce beforehand.) With the letterhead of the law firm she hired, the letter states that W------ T-- is accusing them both of defamation.
Comment on Bilce's Facebook page left; serving the demand letter to another Facebook user on the right via WhatsApp
The above Facebook comment has now since been deleted, but not before some have downloaded the legal demand letter. After a litany of grievances, W----- demanded that they immediately retract, cease and desist. Also:
After a few fearful days for Bilce, on June 23 he did go to a press release, but with the MP Steven Sim of the opposition party DAP (see GuangMing Daily, Kwongwah, Kosmo and below). Bilce's story and the later developments were taken up by Steven Sim, who had previously called out the sitting Malaysian government for lack of action against human and organ trafficking of Malaysians. Steven called for police protection for Bilce as an important witness against crime syndicates. He also points out that if Bilce indeed stole RM200,000 in company funds, the company can file a police complaint and there is no need for a civil lawsuit.
Press conference together Malaysia Parliament member YB Steven Sim
PART 3: Breaking Down Bilce
Two days after the press conference, MCA party official in Penang Cheah Chin Woon resigned on June 25, citing family reasons. Meanwhile Bilce continued working with the media around the world to tell his story. The Victory Paradise Resort in Sihanoukville was identified as one of the compounds linked to human trafficking and pig butchering scams in an investigative documentary by Al Jazeera.
However, Bilce's story looks bound to have an anti-climatic ending. After the Vice article about the pig butchering scam industry in Cambodia came out in July 14, GASO learned that W----- T-- proceeded with her lawsuit against Bilce and his co-defendant in Singapore, trying to serve them the legal notices electronically. Reportedly an e-review by a court was done in July 29.
Bilce's future seems bleak, since he simply has no money to hire a lawyer to defend against what appears to many to be a vindictive lawsuit. Bilce lost all his records in Cambodia. Without Bilce's phones, emails, and cloud storage, it looks that he doesn't have much evidences to back his specific claims on Facebook that are the matter of the lawsuit. His kidnappers hold all his online accounts, and he can see them changing his passwords from Cambodia. Just recently they locked him out of his Facebook --silencing him this way. Trying to recover his accounts from tech companies was of no use, as he was sent in circles and could not reach a human.
For all the publicity he got, he garnered many supporters and tips online among former and current human trafficking victims, though no one would risk coming out. The public figures supporting him are limited in what they can do for him in a civil court. Regarding any alleged threat to Bilce, the police has not changed its position because the threat was not direct nor immediate, and the other party is vague and unknown.
Worst of all in Bilce's opinion, his Indonesian-Chinese wife in China left him with little explanation. When he came back from Cambodia, his wife of seven years sent him mysterious messages: 1.) Why did you send to others my personal data and photo? 2.) I'm very scared of talking to you. She promptly blocked him, giving Bilce no chance to explain, hearing later from a relative that she is seeking a divorce. Having even no call was inexplicable to Blice, and he had no idea if his wife knew what had happened to him at all. The syndicate that victimized him definitely can know details about his wife, along with their IDs, passports and marriage certificates.
Blice is a rare example of a former human trafficking victim standing up publicly to the crime syndicates. Almost all other trafficked victims GASO has encountered have declined going public to testify against their scam companies, for understandable reasons. Bilce is now at an undisclosed location trying to pick back up his life.
Bilce's now inactive Facebook account
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