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Taiwan Seeks to Free Citizens Lured to Cambodia by Scammers

Two suspect were deported from Bangkok and believed to be involved in scam cases in Cambodia as they arrive back at the Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. (Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau via AP)

Taiwan is seeking to free more than 300 of its citizens who were lured to Cambodia by crime groups promising high wages for tech jobs, but then were forced to work in call centers scamming mainland Chinese into making payments for non-existent government fees or investment opportunities.

Taiwan’s government on Friday said 333 of its citizens were stuck in Cambodia, based on reports from families asking for help.

Local media have been reporting extensively on the plight of those trapped by the networks believed to have links to organized crime. Police at Taiwan's main Taoyuan International Airport have been patrolling with signs warning of the dangers of bogus offers of high salaries in Southeast Asia.

Taiwanese authorities have also been reaching out to travel agencies to uncover the scams, and more than a dozen people have been arrested over recruitment schemes that aimed to dupe young people into jobs advertised as high-paying positions in computer engineering and similar fields.

It has also become a political issue, with the minority Nationalist Party accusing the governing Democratic Progressive Party of inaction on the matter. Premier Su Tseng-chang has called for diplomatic outreach and a crackdown on local criminal groups organizing the scams.

Nationalist Deputy Secretary General Lee Yen-hsiu said more public outreach is necessary to deal with the phony job offers.