HIGH RANSOM FOR RELEASE
Not only did the victims not get the lucrative salaries they were promised, their families had to fork out huge sums of money to secure their release.
MCA’s Mr Chong said some victims even paid up to USD$20,000 to be freed from their captors.
In the cases handled by Mr Ooi, the ransom has gone up to roughly RM100,000 from RM20,000 last year.
A street food vendor, who only wanted to be known as Tan, said he was desperate for a job as his income was badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Malaysia was under the movement control order (MCO) at the time, the 26-year-old from Johor Bahru said he crossed into Thailand illegally for a job at a casino in July last year.
He was brought to Mae Sot, which borders Myanmar. From there he was brought to Myanmar where he was held in a building that had many offices.
He said that there were about 80 to 90 other Malaysians there at the time.
His captors demanded that he scam people over the phone. He was not beaten for missing targets, but was forced to do exercises such as sit-ups and push-ups.
“I didn’t want to scam anyone,” he said, adding there were some Malaysians who had been there for two years but did not want to come back because of the money they earned from scamming others.
Tan was only released in Mae Sot after his family paid a RM50,000 ransom to his captors.
He spent one month in detention at the Thai immigration before the Thai police sent him to the Malaysian border in July this year.
Depsite the money lost to the scam, Tan considered himself lucky compared to another Malaysian Goi Zhan Feng, 23, who was reported to have died in a hospital in Mae Sot after being allegedly abused by a human trafficking syndicate in Myanmar.
The final year student at a teacher-training institute reportedly went to Bangkok for a holiday back in January but found himself being trafficked to Myanmar.
“WE MUST ACT QUICKLY”: CAMBODIA MINISTER
The Cambodian government has taken action against the syndicates following regional attention on the crimes.
According to the Khmer Times, Cambodia’s Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said the growing number of human trafficking, labour trafficking and sex trafficking cases in the Preah Sihanouk province needed to be addressed urgently.
He said the authorities must adhere to three principles – they must rescue the victims, crack down on the crime sites and arrest the offenders.
“We must act quickly. Our kingdom’s image and reputation are at stake,” he was quoted as saying.
VOD, an independent Cambodian news portal, reported that the authorities have conducted a series of rescues and raids on scam compounds, removing dozens of foreign workers and arresting some supervisors.
The portal also said that Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities ordered all building owners and managers to report any foreigners staying and working on their premises. The information must be registered with the police before Sep 24.
Building owners are being asked to sign a document pledging that their workers have visas and clear contracts.
The Cambodian government has also been reported as conducting high-level meetings on the issue.
Mr Terrence Fung, 39, and Mr Lo Vui Lun, 23, were among those trapped in Cambodia. They were roommates when they were held by syndicates in Sihanoukville early this year and then when they were held in a Cambodian immigration depot.
They returned to Malaysia last month, ending their nightmare in Cambodia that saw them getting tasered now and then for not meeting the scam targets.
Both entered Cambodia illegally via Thailand. They were also offered salaries of US$3,000 to work in casinos.
Mr Fung said while there was a casino downstairs, the operation centers for scamming were on the upper floors of the building.
He claimed that he never scammed anyone and that when he received calls about job inquiries, he would tell them he was busy.
“I didn’t want to lie to anyone and get them stuck in my predicament,” he said.
He said that it was almost impossible to make a run for it and escape as there were armed bodyguards everywhere.
After Mr Chong intervened, both Mr Fung and Mr Lo were rescued by the Cambodian authorities and sent to the immigration depot where they spent almost three months in detention before being allowed to return to Malaysia. They did not have to pay a ransom.