Cambodia Isn’t Even Trying to Tackle Its Cyber-Slavery Problem

Cambodia Isn’t Even Trying to Tackle Its Cyber-Slavery Problem
Chinese citizens accused of perpetrating an online scam in the country get off a bus at Phnom Penh International Airport on their way to being deported to China, Oct. 12, 2017 (AP Photo/Heng Sinith).

Cambodia’s government can’t get to grips with the cyber-slavery compounds that Chinese mafia gangs operate on its territory. This failure is putting enormous pressure on foreign governments to protect their nationals from falling victim to the scams that originate from the compounds.

Cyber-slavery in Southeast Asia gained international attention in 2022 due to the Al Jazeera documentary, Forced to Scam: Cambodia’s Cyber Slaves. Operating in Cambodia as well as Dubai, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines, the compounds create two kinds of victims.

The first group is made up of the targets of the scams: men and women from around the world seeking online relationships. Working from prepared scripts, the scammers gain these people’s confidence and convince them to part with their money by making a crypto-currency “investment” or some other online payment. The scheme, known as “fattening the pig,” rakes in profits of billions of dollars a year, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, or OHCHR.

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