Still at it: More foreigners detained in S’ville over online gambling

Khmer Times
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Amid the claim that job scam operations in Preah Sihanouk province’s Sihanoukville are on the wane, some 233 foreigners, 35 of whom were women, were rounded up in operations against illegal online gambling in the city between November 30 and Friday. Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Major General Chuon Narin said several illegal Vietnamese workers were deported after their statements were recorded.

“The rest, mostly Chinese nationals, are still being held in Sihanoukville for questioning and to assist in investigations.

“One group of Chinese has been sent to the General Department of Immigration (GDI) in Phnom Penh for action to be taken.

“These foreigners are involved in illegal online gambling, but they are not involved in human trafficking and sex trafficking. We are continuing with our investigations and we plan to send the offenders to court soon,” he said.

Maj Gen Narin said the three-day operation was conducted by a team of law enforcement officers led by Preah Sihanouk deputy governor Mang Sineth and Deputy Prosecutor Penh Piseth.

“They surrounded the building and searched a commercial building located in Muoy village, Bei commune, Sihanoukville, after a tip-off was received to the hotline of the National Police on November 29.”

“We found 233 foreigners on the premises and five Chinese nationals were found on the third floor of the building.

“The foreign workers were not tortured or abused,” Maj Gen Narin said.

He said the law enforcers spent almost three days at the building searching thoroughly and allowing the illegal workers time to pack their belongings under supervision, he added.

On Friday, the GDI said in a statement that since November 30, 104 foreigners, 24 of whom were females, were deported.

The two Indians, one American, two Laotians, four Chinese and 95 Vietnamese had left Cambodia from the Phnom Penh International Airport and through the Prek Chak International Border checkpoint in Kampot province, it said.

The statement said the foreigners were arrested for overstaying and working illegally, adding that some have been barred from Cambodia for three years.

Long Dimanche, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Deputy Governor, said last month that the crackdowns in the province, mostly in Sihanoukville, had produced huge success, resulting in the closing down of all scamming operations in its territory.

“All cases have been closed,” he said. “The situation in Sihanoukville has returned to normal, and what remains today are legitimate businesses. However, if we are informed of even a single case, we will immediately take action.”

The modus operandi of such crimes involve the scammers disguising themselves as private companies operating online services in investment zones.

They dupe their victims from outside of Cambodia through online advertisements promising lucrative jobs. When the victims arrive, they end up being forced to work in illegal operations such as online gambling.

The scams, usually lead to abduction and extortion, initially involved only Chinese nationals and Cambodians but later expanded to include those from other countries from Malaysia to the US.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng recently voiced his concerns that successful crackdowns on job scams in Sihanoukville caused criminals to flee to Pursat province’s Thmor Da special economic zone.

Chou Bun Eng, a Ministry of Interior Secretary of State and vice-chairwoman of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), could not be reached for comment yesterday, but late last month she said that the scammers who managed to escape the arrest attempts are moving their operations to other part of the country.

She said that with crackdowns resulting in a number of arrests, some leaked information also allowed the criminals to escape the raids and later move their groups to other parts of the country.

Cheap Sotheary, human rights group Adhoc coordinator for Preah Sihanouk province, lauded the action taken against illegal online gambling in Sihanoukville.

She urged the authorities to continue their efforts to investigate and shut down other operations.

“Illegal gambling sites can destabilise our society and discredit our country,” she said.

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