Cushy jobs from hell: Vietnamese trafficked to Cambodia with offers they can't refuse

By Le Hoang   July 9, 2022 | 05:22 pm PT
Brokers use photos of luxury buildings and company parties taken in Cambodia to lure Vietnamese workers besides promises of decent jobs with high salaries.

After being rescued in June Nguyen Van Chien, 19, went to the Security Investigation Agency of the Thanh Hoa Province police to report Trang Ngoc Chung, 19.

Chien said he knew Chung, who is also from Sam Son Town like him, for seven years, and had heard from him in February that about a desk job with a monthly salary of US$500-1,000 in Cambodia. All expenses and travel arrangements would be "taken care of" by the employers, Chung told him.

Nguyen Van Chien after getting rescued back in Vietnam in mid-June. Photo by VnExpress/Le Hoang

Nguyen Van Chien after being rescued from Cambodia and returned to Vietnam in mid-June, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Le Hoang

Chien was intrigued and accepted the offer because he did not have a regular job at the time and thought of Chung as a close friend.

Around the beginning of March, Chung told Chien to come to an internet cafe in Sam Son Town and "someone will pick you up."

Chien met three other people who were also going to Cambodia on Chung's recommendation.

A taxi driver picked up the four of them around 2 a.m. and took them to catch a bus heading to HCMC.

In the southern metro, a group picked them up and drove them to a mountainous area in the neighboring province of Long An to wait until nightfall for crossing the border by motorcycle.

It was dark, and they were being led through a forest to Cambodia by an unknown man. They arrived at around 4 a.m.

Chien found out that his job entailed sitting at a computer and enticing people to play online card games and boosting interaction on social networks.

He was on the second floor of a tall office building, and his floor had approximately 300 employees, the majority of them Vietnamese.

He told the police many of them were brutally beaten over the month he was there.

"May got bleeding noses after being badly beaten. They even used electric batons on us.

"Screams of pain could be heard frequently in the building."

There was a punishment room on the second floor for employees trying to flee, refusing to work or arguing with the boss, and he would hear groans of pain every time he went past it to go to the bathroom.

"There were no high-paying jobs as promised.

"We were constantly threatened and forced to do illegal things."

He had to work 13-15 hours a day and was fined if he failed to meet the target or tried to resist.

Those who wished to quit had to pay VND120-150 million ($5,100-6,400), and anyone trying to flee instead or report to the police faced retaliation.

One employee died after working for a little more than a month, prompting the police to arrive and investigate.

"When we saw the authorities, we cried out for help."

On April 29 Chien and a large number of people were able to return to Vietnam.

"We were fortunate to be discovered and rescued in time."

Chung was arrested and charged by the Thanh police at the end of June for being a middleman who sent people abroad illegally to work.

Tran Ngoc Chung is being questioned by Thanh Hoa Provincial Police. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Son

Tran Ngoc Chung is questioned by the Thanh Hoa Province police. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Son

Chien is among hundreds in Thanh Hoa Province who have been tricked into working in Cambodia by trafficking gangs.

Tran Chi Duy, 19, of Sam Son recently got bailed out by relatives after months of working in a casino in Cambodia. He says he is still "scared" whenever he think about his time there.

Due to their poor background, Duy and his relatives used to cross the border into China to work, but it became too risky and he stopped going and intended to find a job close to home.

While searching for one, an old friend from the northern Nam Dinh Province told him about a "cushy job that paid well" in Cambodia, and accepted.

After the Lunar New Year in early 2022 Duy and a friend traveled to HCMC to meet a man and be taken to the Long Binh International Border Gate in An Giang Province for crossing over into Cambodia.

Duy was escorted to a casino near the border. As soon as he entered it, he lost contact with the broker.

The casino boss later told him that he had been sold for $2,700.

Despite knowing he had been tricked, he had no option but to agree to work in the hope of earning enough to return home.

After working for three months as a waiter at the casino, Duy was told he had been sold to another casino for $4,600.

At the new place, he was given computers and phones to advise customers of a pre-programmed online gambling site.

"Every day I had to work 14-15 hours while being constantly checked by a security guard holding a gun and threatening me.

He was not paid all those months with the manager saying his salary went toward his living expenses.

After many sleepless nights due to fear, Duy and a friend saying they want return to Vietnam but were told by their boss they needed to pay VND140 million or would be sold off to another casino.

At this point Duy was forced to call home and seek assistance from his family.

His family mortgaged their house to raise the ransom money.

Tran Chi Duy is back at his home in Thanh Hoa Province after family paid ransom to bail him out. Photo by VnExpress/Le Hoang

Tran Chi Duy back at his home in Thanh Hoa Province after his family paid a ransom to bail him out of Cambodia, where he had been tricked into going with an offer of a cushy job. Photo by VnExpress/Le Hoang

According to Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thanh Binh, head of the of Thanh Hoa police’s external security department, the majority of the 19 victims recently rescued by Cambodian authorities had been tricked by people they knew or through social media with appealing offers.

The victims were all healthy young men without a steady job who enjoyed playing and knew how to use computers.

Brokers help people in Cambodia lure victims by using photos of fancy parties and buildings in Cambodia as bait.

According to the external security department, there had been 381 instances of people going to Cambodia to work illegally.

Of them 179 have returned while the rest are still working illegally in Cambodia, 21 of them at gambling establishments.

The police have so far charged eight for defrauding people and trafficking them to Cambodia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently announced that so far this year Vietnamese and Cambodian authorities have collaborated to repatriate 400 Vietnamese citizens who had been tricked and sold in Cambodia by traffickers.

The Ministry of Public Security has warned people to be wary of getting tricked with offers of cushy jobs with high salaries in Cambodia.

Before going to work, it is necessary to do proper research about the destination and the identity of the person offering the job, it said.

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