8 Filipinos rescued from Myanmar syndicate running cryptocurrency scams

Six Malaysians rescued from a human trafficking syndicate in Myanmar arriving in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 21, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Eight Filipinos who were trafficked to Myanmar and forced to work for cryptocurrency scammers there have been rescued, the Philippine Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said in a statement that four men among the people rescued had been recruited online from Dubai. They were told that they were being hired as “customer support representatives” for a company in Thailand.

They were flown to Thailand, but were then smuggled to Myanmar, where they were forced to work for a syndicate running a cryptocurrency scam.

Four women, meanwhile, were caught and detained as they were being moved from Thailand to Myanmar.

All eight rescued Filipinos arrived in Manila early on Monday.

Acting Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said Filipinos seeking to work abroad should be wary of spurious jobs being offered through social media.

Syndicates have been trafficking workers from across South-east Asia as slave labour for online scamming operations in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

A Malaysian interviewed by The Straits Times in January recalled how he was offered a job that purportedly paid up to RM5,000 (S$1,530) a month, with commissions of up to RM6,000.

He instead wound up in a slave labour camp in the so-called Golden Triangle that straddles Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. There, he was forced to work on currency trading scams for 14 hours a day.

Another victim recounted how he was beaten with water pipes and starved because he could not meet his monthly scamming quota of RM30,000. Others told of being subjected to water torture.

Some were forced to carry 20 litres of water up and down two flights of stairs, and there had also been harrowing accounts of organs purportedly being harvested from those who were no longer able to work.

It is believed that at least 1,000 Malaysians are still being held at the KK Garden in Myanmar’s Myawaddy township, which is notorious for being a crime hub.

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