16 Indians rescued from scam operations in Laos

Traffickers transported them from Mumbai to work in the Golden Triangle.
By RFA Lao
16 Indians rescued from scam operations in Laos Three Indian nationals duped by fake job offers in Laos are seen in this image posted to Facebook, Feb. 28, 2024, after they were rescued by authorities.
India Ministry of External Affairs

Sixteen Indian nationals who said they were lured in Mumbai to work as online scammers in Laos were rescued this week from the Chinese-run Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, an official with knowledge of the situation told Radio Free Asia on Friday.

The zone, which sits along the Mekong River in northwestern Bokeo province, is a gambling and tourism hub catering to Chinese tourists and has been described as a de-facto Chinese colony. 

It has become a haven for cyber scams, prostitution, money laundering, drug trafficking, and human and wildlife trafficking by organized criminal networks.

The Indians had been told by recruiters in Mumbai that they would get jobs related to cryptocurrency in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, said the official, who like others in this report, did not want to be identified so he could speak freely. 

But when they arrived, the Chinese bosses loaded them on a boat that crossed the Mekong River to Bokeo province, where the Indians said they were forced to work as online scammers or fake call center workers in the zone.

Their plight came to light after one of the Indians managed to escape and return to India, where he filed a complaint with Mumbai police on March 24, The Laotian Times reported.

One Lao official said that they had received a tip-off email from someone who knew about their predicament, and “took action right away to help these youngsters.”

Hurt and abused

An official involved in anti-human trafficking efforts said the Chinese running the operations physically abused some of the Indians, denied them food, and locked them up if they didn’t generate revenue. 

“The Chinese bosses physically hurt the Indian nationals with hammers and sticks,” he told RFA. “They simply had to work for free or without getting paid.”

Anti-human trafficking agents in India arrested two people believed to be in charge of agents who recruited up to 40 young Indian nationals so they could be sent to Laos to work as online scammers, said the official.

The Indian Embassy in Laos posted on its website an advisory for Indian youths to beware of fake job offers from Laos. (India Ministry of External Affairs)
The Indian Embassy in Laos posted on its website an advisory for Indian youths to beware of fake job offers from Laos. (India Ministry of External Affairs)

Other Indians in the zone who find themselves in the same predicament contact Lao government officers daily for help, said a second official involved in anti-human trafficking activities.

Since the beginning of the year, about 30 Indians have contacted a Lao anti-human trafficking office, which can help them find a safe temporary place to stay and send them home once authorities receive a tip about them, he said.

Some information comes from India's Ministry of External Affairs asking for help to get Indian nationals out of the zone, the second official said.

It is unknown how many Indians are still working in the zone, he added.

South Korean and Malaysian nationals have also fallen victim to traffickers who hand them over to Chinese in the zone to engage in cyber fraud, said the official with knowledge of the situation.

The Embassy of India in Vientiane issued a recent notice on its website that it was aware that Indian nations were being lured for employment in Thailand or Laos as “digital sales and marketing executives” and “customer support services” by dubious companies involved in call-center scams and cryptocurrency fraud in the Golden Triangle SEZ.

Translated by Phouvong for RFA Lao. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcom Foster.


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