An estimated 700 Malaysians were today reported to be stranded in Laos after being recruited to go work there for a China-owned casino and hotel resort.
Malaysian portal Benar News also reported that the Malaysians are being held captive in Bokeo province, Laos and have been abused by the resort managers who are allegedly demanding a large ransom for their release.
“Most are being put to work as online scammers, with compliance enforced by beatings and torture.
“I see a lot of Malaysian workers in the SEZ,” a Laotian worker in the landlocked South-east Asian country was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia, an online news service affiliated with Benar News on September 29.
The SEZ stands for Special Economic Zone in Laos’ Golden Triangle area.
“Actually, I see people here from many different countries, including Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia. They work at many different jobs, but most of them here at the Golden Triangle work online as scammers,” the news portal quoted the unnamed source as saying.
Another unnamed Laotian worker who escaped the area after being forced to work as a scammer claimed that foreign workers in the SEZ were unable to leave or find protection as their passports and handphones had been confiscated.
“Foreign workers like the Malaysians also have trouble complaining to the Lao authorities because of the language barrier.
“They don’t know whether they should report the abuse to the government’s SEZ Task Force or to their own embassies,” the second Laotian worker was quoted as saying.
The SEZ is reported to be a gambling and tourism hub catering to Chinese citizens located along the Mekong River where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet.
The story of Malaysians ensnared by job recruiters in Laos was first raised by three Malaysian NGOs on September 25.
The Malaysia International Humanitarian Organisation (MHO), Malaysia Community Crime Care, and Semboyan Malaysia Consumers Association reported cases of Malaysians promised high-paying jobs taken captive in Laos and subject to beatings with some even shot at when they refused to obey orders.
Some Malaysian women were also reportedly forced into prostitution there.
MHO secretary-general Datuk Hishamuddin Hashim was reported saying that four Malaysians were able to escape while another six were rescued through the intervention of the Malaysian embassy in Laos while local authorities were shielding the culprits from punitive action.
The syndicate also demanded ransom ranging between RM50,000 and RM100,000 to release their Malaysian captives.