KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — About 1,000 Malaysian citizens have allegedly been forced to work as ‘call operators’ for frauds and scams run by international human trafficking syndicates that operate in Myanmar, the Malaysian International Humanitarian Organisation (MHO) revealed.
Its secretary-general Datuk Hishamuddin Hashim said the non-governmental organisation had received dozens of complaints involving Malaysians who had been duped and are now captives of syndicates in the country, Utusan Malaysia reported.
Hishamuddin said that some of the victim’s kin revealed that syndicate members had threatened them and demanded hundreds of thousands of ringgit for the release of their family members.
“Previously, we received a report from a woman whose son had been forced to work in a foreign country and told to pay RM1.2 million if she wanted her son to be released. The amount demanded varies according to the syndicate.
“It is difficult for the victim to escape because they are stationed at a location other than the syndicate’s headquarters which is heavily guarded and armed,” he was quoted as saying by the national daily.
The report also said that Malaysians are allegedly beaten, locked in a dark room or denied food and drink if they refuse to comply with the syndicate’s instructions.
It added that the syndicate punished the victim far more brutally if they failed to perform the task or did not reach a set target.
On February 16, the Dewan Rakyat was told that a total of 339 Malaysians were stranded in several countries due to fraudulent job offers. These included Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines and Dubai.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said his ministry is working closely with the police to rescue the victims and bring them home.
Hishamuddin said the syndicates used several tricks to deceive Malaysians, such as offering well-paying jobs of up to RM15,000 to work in Thailand.
“Upon arrival in the country, they are believed to be kidnapped before being sent to Myanmar through the Mae Sot border.
“There are also those who are said to have been offered jobs in Dubai and required to go to Thailand first for supposedly training purposes. But as soon as they arrived, they were forced to relocate to Myanmar and ended up being stranded there.
“The various methods used by these syndicates include deception by acquaintances and job offers from large companies,” he explained.
Hishamuddin said these syndicates are part of a cross-border criminal network with a wide reach.
He said these syndicates are believed to be masterminded by individuals based in several countries such as China and Taiwan but managed by locals.
“The situation of the victims who were deceived by fake job offers in Laos and Myanmar is complex.
“This is because the Malaysian embassy did not receive the cooperation of the authorities there, which left many Malaysians stranded in those countries,” he said.