Victims of employment scams from Malaysia as well as Taiwan and mainland China are being held in prison-like conditions in the Myawaddy area on the Thailand-Myanmar border, a victim has said.
He claimed he was in a tightly guarded area where trafficked people were forced to become reluctant scammers to lure potential victims around the world over the phone.
Chinese workers were treated the worst and were beaten and confined to a dark room for days if they disobeyed orders, he said.
“Malaysians are treated better but still get beaten up if they don’t perform,” the victim said after he managed to get in touch with members of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in the town of Jelutong, in the Malaysian state of Penang.
Jelutong MCA committee member Jeffrey Ooi said he spoke with the victim.
“There are convenience stores, restaurants, clinics and entertainment centers in the area that union members can use,” Ooi told a news conference at the division’s premises at the free school. from Jalan Taman on May 13.
“One of the victims we spoke to claimed he was ‘sold’ by a Malaysian agent to a syndicate there for between 30,000 ringgit [$6,800] and RM50,000.
“He claimed that he had to pay this amount to leave or earn 500,000 yuan [$74,000] be released,” he said.
Penang MCA Youth Vice President Sit Jie Hao, who was present at the press conference, said the victims entered Bangkok for the first time, where they surrendered their passports.
“They would be driven by car for seven hours to reach the Thai border area of Maesot. In the dark of night, they would be smuggled to Myawaddy, just across a river.
“We were told the working hours were 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. with a two-hour break,” he said.
Sit said Malaysians were told to be scammers for the European market because they spoke English.
Jelutong MCA President Chuah Chin Chuon said Penang MCA had received four reports of workplace scams and was helping families bring loved ones home.
Meanwhile, Penang Police Chief Commissioner Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain has urged the public not to be easily fooled by overseas job opportunities offering lucrative salaries.
“Check the validity of these offers. Many people are easily deceived by promises of big salaries and lavish lifestyles,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Kuantan, a mother tries to find her son, who was allegedly the victim of a job scam in Myanmar.
Loke Chooi Tip, 55, said his youngest son Koh Sheng Yur, 19, told him he was leaving their home in Pekan for work in Kuala Lumpur on April 6.
“My son just said he got a job offer from a cryptocurrency company. I told him that kind of job wasn’t for him, but he was stubborn and left with his friend.
“He stayed in touch until April 13, when I suddenly couldn’t reach him,” she said on May 13.
Loke said a friend of his son called later to say Koh was asking for 60,000 ringgit to leave Thailand.
“I was shocked. I don’t know how my son got into Thailand since I have his passport. My son’s friend said he entered through the Kelantan-Thai border.
“On April 15, I received a call from my son saying he wanted to come home. He looked distressed. A man then phoned and said my son was safe but he had to pay if he wanted to leave.
“When I was able to speak to my son again, I told him to contact his older brother. He managed to send a geotag which appears to be in Myanmar,” she said.
THE STAR (MALAYSIA) / ASIA NEWS NETWORK