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10 Aug 2023

Phon Sothyroth & Leila Goldstein, CamboJA

Cambodia: Cambodian authorities dispute Indonesian govt.'s claims that 41 Indonesians are victims of forced online scammers; company does not respond

"Cambodian Police Contradict Indonesian Officials, Claim Repatriated Indonesians Are Not Victims", 10 August 2023

The Indonesian Embassy in Phnom Penh repatriated 41 Indonesian citizens in the last month from online scam operations, it announced …, but Cambodian police officials say that these people were not victims.

The Indonesian Embassy told … that Cambodian National Police rescued the victims from one location in Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet city, four locations in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet city and two locations in Phnom Penh ...

The victims included a group of Indonesian workers located in the city of Bavet who recorded a video asking for help from President Joko Widodo, … The man speaking in the video said the group felt cheated – they were misled to believe they would be working at a call center but once they arrived in Cambodia they were instead forced to work as scammers.

The Indonesian Embassy told … in an emailed statement that all the victims had been “forced to become scammers” ...”

But … spoke with police officials involved in the case who said that this was not a police rescue nor were these victims of human trafficking or online scams, arguing that the Indonesian citizens were not detained or beaten.

Use of force is just one means of trafficking, according to the UN, and traffickers can also use deception, coercion, abuse of power or threats of violence to exploit people for profit…

… Indonesian officials reported that the Cambodian government concluded that these Indonesians were not trafficking victims, and were detained at an immigration detention center for overstaying their residence permits…