Human Trafficking Victims at Cambodian Casino Make a Run for Freedom

Last month, 40 people caught up in human trafficking and illegal gambling in Cambodia escaped to freedom. Now, perhaps following their lead, another 56 escaped their slave-like conditions at a casino in the city of Bavet.

The border crossing into Bavet, Cambodia from Vietnam. Cambodian police have helped free 56 Vietnamese nationals who were forced to work for an illegal gambling operation. (Image: GGRAsia)

The Vietnamese captives made a break for freedom on Saturday, according to VNExpress. As they risked being captured by security guards hot on their trails, the group received a welcome sign when police caught up with them.

The police took them in, leaving the casino’s security guards empty-handed. As they launched an investigation, the officers learned that there were more captives at local casinos. On Sunday, they, too, earned their freedom as police intervened.

Nowhere to Run

In conversations with police, the captives revealed the conditions in which they lived and worked. Having been duped into coming to Cambodia on the promise of high-paying jobs, they instead worked 12 hours a day with no breaks.

When they weren’t working, they lived on the eighth floor of the building, which had only one exit. This made it virtually impossible to flee.

Cambodia has promised to take human trafficking and illegal gambling more seriously. It’s perhaps because of the increased response that the captives gained their freedom.

VNExpress stated that police officers were inspecting the property and that the casino owners tried to avoid detection. The victims thought the owners had sold them, and they tried to make their escape. As they made it to the gate of the casino, the guards caught up, beating them and capturing 10 of the group.

However, with the police presence in the area, the victims found quick relief. Last month, when 42 kidnapped foreigners tried to escape by crossing a river, one was caught and another drowned.

The Bavet debacle followed a separate police action in Sihanoukville on Friday. In that incident, police were able to rescue a Vietnamese woman working for an online gambling firm after she sent a message for help.

The Khmer Times reported that the unidentified female indicated in her message that she was being held captive, working 14-15 hours a day. When the police arrived and pulled her out, they also took in an unidentified Chinese national who was reportedly the manager of the operation.

On the following day, police rounded up around 400 foreign nationals working for an illegal online gambling operator also in Sihanoukville. They will be expatriated to their respective countries.

Cambodia Continues Intervention

The results are potentially good news for the hundreds, possibly thousands, who are still being held captive. The exact figure isn’t known since, in most cases, there’s no way to track the individuals.

They respond to job ads that offer incredible salaries, swallowing the line without question. They make their way to Cambodia from Vietnam, Thailand, and other countries without telling anyone.

Then, they find that everything is a lie. By that time, it’s too late, and they have no way to escape.

Cambodia is trying to clean up its image and has promised increased police activity for the past couple of months. It’s working, and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng promises more.

He conducted a meeting today with other high-ranking government officials to address human trafficking and illegal gambling. He reinforced the country’s position to crack down on the activity and said that it will do whatever it can to free the slaves.

Sar put illegal gambling operators on notice, as well. Stopping human trafficking is his “first priority,” but arresting those behind the schemes is a close second.

The efforts are finding approval from human rights groups. Licadho, one of the most prominent in the country, called the recent crackdowns “unprecedented,” and looks forward to more.

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