Easy job, easy money: how Vietnamese citizens are trafficked in Cambodia

By Ngoc Anh   September 1, 2022 | 10:00 pm PT
Easy job, easy money: how Vietnamese citizens are trafficked in Cambodia
Escapees from a Cambodian casino rest at a house in An Giang Province, southern Vietnam, August 19, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Tai
"No experience or degree required. Salary of VND20-30 million ($852-1,279) per month. Company-covered accommodation." Such ads are bait used to hook Vietnamese people to work in Cambodia.

Unfortunately, there are many takers for such too-good-to-be-true offers.

Recently, many human trafficking and bonded labor cases in Cambodia have been exposed, the most dramatic of them being the escape of 42 people escaped from a casino last month. They swam across the Binh Di River, the natural border between Vietnam and Cambodia, on Aug. 18. Forty made it, one was captured and one teenager drowned.

Authorities say there are possibly thousands of people who have been tricked and trafficked into Cambodia, ending up as bonded laborers. They are held against their will on establishment promises and not paid the salaries or given the working conditions they were promised.

Cambodia has of late received offers from Vietnam and nine other countries to cooperate in combating human trafficking.

According to Vietnam’s National Committee for Prevention of Human Trafficking, from the beginning of this year to Aug. 20, 865 victims were rescued.

The Cambodian Ministry of Interior has confirmed that the victims are persuaded to go to Cambodia with promises of "easy jobs and high salaries."

However, when they arrive in Cambodia, they are shocked to learn that the jobs are not what they imagined. Every day, they are forced to go online and trick people into pouring money into illegal online games.

VnExpress contacted a broker, whose Facebook post said a company near Moc Bai International border checkpoint was looking for Vietnamese workers. The broker promised many benefits.

"The company will support you. When you arrive at Moc Bai border checkpoint, I will call the company's administrative staff to pick you up there. Your job is to invite people to play games on its site", the broker said.

When asked about recent human trafficking cases in Cambodia, the broker responded: "This company is not like that. I have been in Cambodia for nearly two years and what I have seen is different. Only if workers make trouble will they be punished by security guards. The 40 people who swam across that river probably worked for a ghost company", he said.

40 people swim to Vietnam after escaping from Cambodian casino

The broker promised that the company he was recruiting for would allow workers to go out freely. If a worker wanted to quit the job, all he/she needed to do was to send a resignation form to the employer a month before.

"They will pay you the rest of your salary and then you can leave", the broker said.

This was what Diep and Chu, among the 42 people who escaped from a casino in Cambodia, were told by brokers.

"I learnt about the job via a recruitment post in a Facebook group, which said a company was looking for Vietnamese people to work in Cambodia. It required candidates with basic computer skills to work 8-10 hours/day with a salary of VND25-30 million. The company would cover accommodation and transportation costs," Diep said.

"They said I would work in an air-conditioned office and my salary would be VND 25 million a month. I was unemployed really desperate to get a job", Chu said.

Diep said her broker’s Facebook account seemed like a normal one that a human resource staff would have. To convince her, the broker sent her photos of an office where employees did their jobs on computers.

"I saw the photos and I believed him", Diep said.

She did not have a passport, but was still directed to go to Cambodia. From Bac Ninh province, the young woman traveled to Chau Doc city; and then to Long Binh town, An Giang province.

"When I got there, a Vietnamese woman was waiting for me. She took me on a trail, then we crossed the river on a boat. That's when I realized I was crossing the border illegally.

"The boat was not big, it was an old wooden one. I wondered why they didn't take me to a border checkpoint. I wanted to go back but they reassured me: It's fine, your office is just across the river, many people have gone this way and they didn’t get caught, they said."

When she arrived at the casino, she realized her colleagues were all Vietnamese and had also crossed the river like her.

Chu said many Vietnamese were being tricked into working in Cambodia even after getting there legally.

"Some people have come here by flight, some others crossed border checkpoints. Some arrived in Phnom Penh and then ended up working at casinos near the border", Chu said.

According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, the criminals are very sophisticated operators. Instead of meeting the victims in person, they approach people in need of jobs via social media. They even give Vietnamese workers some money in advance to create trust. They ask the people to get to border checkpoints and then guide them to follow pathways.

Later, when the workers start working, they begin to take brokerage fees.

Officials say these cases occur mainly in economically disadvantaged provinces, such as the northern and southern border provinces, and the Central Highlands. Victims are mostly poor people, including teenagers, and even university students longing to make quick money.

"I was given a computer and 4 Iphones. My employer, who was Chinese, said my job was to chat and talk to men to invite them to play online games on the company’s site", Diep says.

"When I was in Vietnam, they only said I would work for an online game app. No details were given. When I got there, I understood I had to cheat my compatriots. I had to trick people into pouring their money into the app", Chu recalls.

After working at the casino for a week, Diep’s working hours increased from 8-10 hours to 12-14 hours a day. When she asked the employer for permission to leave early, she was reprimanded.

After the first month, she was paid $200; but in the following months, she received almost nothing. They said her salary had been seized because she failed to meet quotas.

Chu said they were told that if they wanted to leave, they would have to contact their families and pay ransoms of more than $3,000 peach.

When some workers called their broker for help, the latter seemed to have vanished.

"When I was in Vietnam, I could contact my broker easily. After a week in Cambodia, I lost contact with him", Chu said.

"The broker's Facebook account suddenly disappeared. My conversation with the person was also deleted", Diep said.

On Aug. 22, a spokesman for the Cambodian Immigration Department said that investigators had arrested the Chinese manager of the casino from which 42 Vietnamese people fled.

The manager admitted to forcing Vietnamese workers to work.

Police in An Giang province have temporarily detained two suspects, Nguyen Thi Le and Le Van Danh, to investigate theirs role in organizing a ring to smuggle people.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, in the first six months of this year, Vietnamese police have coordinated with Cambodian authorities to rescue more than 250 cases of people who were tricked into working illegally in Cambodia.

go to top