A new report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has exposed the alarming extent of human trafficking and online scamming in Southeast Asia, where hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to work in fraudulent operations that target victims around the world.
The report, titled “Online Scamming: A New Form of Trafficking in Persons in Southeast Asia”, estimates that at least 120,000 people in Myanmar and another 100,000 in Cambodia have been trafficked and coerced into working in online scamming operations. These operations involve various forms of fraud, such as fake romance, investment, gambling, and lottery schemes.
The victims of these scams come from different regions of the world, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The report cites examples of people who have lost their life savings, homes, businesses, and even committed suicide after being deceived by the scammers.
The report also highlights the serious human rights violations and abuses that the trafficked workers face, such as torture, arbitrary detention, sexual violence, and forced labour. The workers are often held in isolated and overcrowded locations, where they are subjected to physical and psychological pressure to meet quotas and targets. They are also deprived of their identity documents, freedom of movement, and access to health care and education.
The UN rights chief Volker Türk has called for justice for the people who have been so horrifically abused and for stronger measures to prevent and combat this form of trafficking. He urged the governments of Myanmar and Cambodia to ratify the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and to implement effective laws and policies to protect the rights of the trafficked workers. He also appealed to the international community to support the efforts of the OHCHR and other UN agencies to assist the victims and survivors of online scamming.
The report is based on interviews with 110 trafficked workers, 20 government officials, 10 civil society organizations, and 10 private sector representatives in Myanmar and Cambodia. It also draws on data from other sources, such as media reports, academic studies, and court cases. The report is part of a broader project by the OHCHR to address the human rights implications of online scamming in Southeast Asia.
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