A kidnapped employee of an online casino based in Sihanoukville, Cambodia was rescued recently after being threatened her fingers would be cut off if she failed to pay a $4,950 ransom, as Southeast Asia responds to multiple recent abductions.
The kidnappers claim the 24-year-old worker used company money from the online operation for personal use. She was held in its office until police searched the building, located her, and arrested four suspected kidnappers, according to the Malay Mail.
The kidnapping apparently took place earlier this month. The employee’s husband on Oct. 15 reported to police the woman was missing, authorities said, and the woman was apparently rescued on Saturday.
Cooperation Between Nations
Sa Kaeo, Thailand Immigration Police Chief, and Col. Benchapol Rodsawas told Bernama, the state-run Malaysian news agency, “We sent a request to our counterpart to rescue the woman. The Cambodian police conducted a search and found the woman at an apartment believed to be the online casino office in Phnom Penh.”
The local police there “also nabbed the four Malaysians, believed to be running the online casino,” the chief added.
The female hostage was transferred to Thai government authorities over the weekend at the border in Aranyaprathet. The city is in Sa Kaeo Province.
Each of the suspects is from Malaysia and they are likely to be charged and put on trial in Cambodia, the report said. The kidnapped woman is believed to have originally lived in Thailand.
When asked for comment, Occidental College Professor Sophal Ear told Casino.org “I’m afraid abductions are becoming more and more common, along with fights and other criminal elements that go along with it, in Cambodia.
You won’t find this in Singapore. But when your country specializes in online gambling and fly-by-night casinos, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Just look at the stats: ethnic Chinese have taken over Sihanoukville, with 150 out of 156 hotels (96%), 414 out of 435 restaurants (95%), 48 out of 62 casinos (77%), 41 Karaoke clubs and 46 massage parlors. I mean, how many ‘massage parlors does one city need?” Ear asked.
Similar kidnappings in the region are not uncommon. In August, the Bangkok Post reported how four suspected kidnappers operating in Cambodia allegedly cut off a finger of a hostage from Indonesia.
The criminals allegedly sent a video to the hostage’s family showing the cut-off finger. They also demanded over $9,897 in ransom, police claim.
Later, the kidnappers were identified and followed by police in a car chase from Sa Kaeo to part of the way to Bangkok, the Post reported. That is a total distance of about 123 miles, though the suspects allegedly switched vehicles midway in the route to avoid a roadblock.
Eventually, they were found by authorities in a Bangkok hotel. To confirm their identities, Thai authorities used biometric devices.
They were initially spotted at an immigration checkpoint run by Thai authorities as the alleged kidnappers tried to enter Thailand. Cambodian police had alerted Thai officials about the suspected criminals, the Post said.
Three of the kidnappers were from Indonesia and one was from Vietnam. Each will likely face trial in Cambodia. The victim apparently was rescued.
Tougher Stands Toward Abductions
Other nations in the region also are facing kidnappings. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte last month pledged that casino loansharks who resort to kidnapping gamblers who cannot pay up will be “caught dead or alive” — and preferably dead.
Philippine police also have established two kidnap “strike teams” in Manila, as 53 gaming-related abductions took place in the East Asian region over two years. Since 2017, Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested more than 100 suspected kidnappers of Chinese nationality, according to GGRAsia.
Elsewhere, in Macau 25 suspects were sentenced to prison terms of four months to 16 years after being convicted in connection with a loansharking scheme targeting Macau gamblers, according to recent news reports. Several of the ring members were also banned from entering any Macau casino.