Taiwan indicts nine for human trafficking scams in Cambodia

Taiwanese prosecutors on Friday indicted nine suspects on human trafficking charges for allegedly luring 88 people to Cambodia to work in online scam syndicates that have become a regional scourge.

Online “boiler room” scams have long had a presence across Southeast Asia, but more details of people being trafficked and forced to work have emerged in recent months.

Victims reported traveling to Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos with false promises of romance or high-paying jobs.

The defendants in Taiwan include the bosses of two human smuggling rings who posted job advertisements on social media with promises of “high wages and easy loans,” the Taipei district attorney’s office said in a statement.

The ads tricked unemployed youth and those with financial difficulties into going to Cambodia, prosecutors added.

Once there, they were handed over to telecommunications networks and online fraud who forced them to work.

Some were beaten and beaten with electric shocks or held for ransom if they refused to obey orders or misbehaved, according to the statement.

“The defendants committed crimes without regard to life that severely violated human rights … and seriously damaged the international image of our country,” prosecutors said.

The suspects also face charges of organized crime and imprisonment.

Among the 88 victims, 18 were rescued from Cambodia and returned to Taiwan.

Last month, Taiwan established an inter-ministerial task force to track down and assist victims trafficked in boiler room scams in Southeast Asia.

According to the Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau, more than 4,600 Taiwanese who traveled to Cambodia in the past year have not returned home.

Investigators believe that around 300 of them could be victims of fraud and human trafficking networks.

The victims of these gangs include Hong Kong and Chinese citizens, as well as Thai and Vietnamese citizens, according to local media.

Last month, dozens of Vietnamese casino workers allegedly forced to work without pay in Cambodia fled back to their homeland by swimming across a river.

Activists in Hong Kong last week played a harrowing recording of a resident testifying that he has been kidnapped and forced to work for scammers in Myanmar.

An investigation by Al Jazeera earlier this year conducted interviews with victims who worked in Cambodian casinos, many of them owned by Chinese nationals and politically connected Cambodian associates.

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