Illegal Gambling Center in Cambodia Sees Up to 100 Malaysians Held Hostage

Posted on: March 31, 2022, 05:59h. 

Last updated on: March 31, 2022, 12:39h.

Cambodia has asserted that it is working diligently to eliminate the seedy underbelly that permeates the country. It can demonstrate that by freeing the 100 Malaysians allegedly held hostage by a group forcing them to participate in illegal gambling operations and phone scams.

Illegal phone scam operations
An illegal phone scam operation in Cambodia after police intervened. Scenes like this, using slave labor, are common in the country. (Image: Thailand News)

Cambodia is reportedly in the process of ridding itself of the criminal organizations that have infested the country. It occasionally makes progress but still has a long way to go. Cities like Sihanoukville have corroded the country’s landscape, becoming the epicenter of alleged kidnappings, torture, and illegal gambling.

The country could probably do a lot more, a lot quicker. A report by the Khmer Times indicates that it has identified another underground operation that follows the same modus operandi. The media outlet has known about it for almost a month.

There are as many as 100 Malaysian youths who are hostages of a criminal syndicate in Cambodia, the Khmer Times reports. The media outlet acknowledges that it “has been investigating this story since early March.” This begs the question, why hasn’t something been done already?

Reportedly, one victim was able to get word to the outside world of what was going on. He explained that the syndicate is forcing him and others to participate in illegal online gambling sites and phone scams. It’s a common theme in Cambodia that has resulted in international pressure on Cambodia.

Hostages Under Survelliance

The hostages don’t have access to cell phones. They use landlines for their activity, with the organization behind the activity closely monitoring what is said. However, the unidentified victim who contacted the media outlet explained that he is able to surreptitiously send emails.

I will collect them as soon as possible and send them to you as soon as possible. After all, there are so many people and eyes and ears. If I get caught more than once, I will be buried in Cambodia,” one kidnapped Malaysian told the Khmer Times.

The location that serves as a base of operations and the undesired home for the hostages is apparently sophisticated. The individual told the media outlet that it also has casinos, a massage parlor, bars, restaurants, and more in addition to the fraudulent digital activity.

The scams run by the group target different countries. One department concentrates on China and another on Chinese Taipei. A third hits Europe and a fourth focuses on the US.

Government Response Too Slow

The Cambodian government may be more aware of what is going on and by whom than it has let on. The man in charge of Malaysia’s Public Services and Complaints Department, Michael Chong, has received calls from alleged victims since the beginning of the year. They have begged him to “come to their rescue,” he admitted in a press conference on Wednesday.

The parents of two of the hostages joined Chong in the press conference. One of those victims is 18; the other is 24.

They thought they were heading for legitimate jobs when they responded to ads for work. Neither knew what he was about to get into. Along with the others, they have been kept in buildings locked from the outside and guarded by men with guns.

Malaysian officials say that they are working to resolve the issue. However, the father of one of the victims contacted Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah two weeks ago, describing what he knew. The Khmer Times states that he never received a response.

Malaysia reportedly has evidence of wrongdoing dating back to the beginning of the year. Cambodia has to have even more following several recent high-profile cases and Khmer Times’ self-proclaimed investigation. Finding a location that can house over 100 people and offer gambling, bars, and restaurants behind armed guards shouldn’t be that difficult.