BANGKOK (THE STAR/THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thai police have rescued a 19-year-old Malaysian woman after she was constantly beaten and forcefully confined in a condominium by a "Macau scam" syndicate headed by a Taiwanese man.
The rescue came following information relayed by the Malaysian embassy in Thailand to police who raided the condominium in the Bangna area in the outskirts of Bangkok on Friday (Oct 28).
They arrested five Malaysians and a 29-year-old Taiwanese man, Zhao Fei Long, who is suspected to be the ringleader of the syndicate.
The four Malaysian men and a woman arrested are between 22 and 27 years old.
"The victim alleged that she was deceived to work in Thailand and when she arrived in the Kingdom, she was forced to work as a call-centre operator and confined inside the condominium," said acting Thai Tourist Police chief Pol Major-General Surachet Hakpal, who led the operation.
"She was also beaten by members of the syndicate," he added. Police found bruises on several parts of her body.
The victim, Khu Wen Ching, was said to have called the Malaysian embassy in Thailand which then relayed the information to the Thai authorities.
Thai police also confiscated computers, internet routers, SIM cards, mobile phones, telephones, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and recording equipment, printers and iPads from the condominium.
Supt Ridzuan Abdul Aziz from the Malaysian embassy told Bernama that the father of the Malaysian victim met embassy officers several days ago, and reported about the suffering endured by his daughter at the hands of the syndicate.
"The father informed that his daughter was deceived (by the syndicate) and was regularly beaten for refusing to be involved in their activities," he said, adding that the daughter managed to call her father to tell him about her ordeal.
She also disclosed information about the syndicate including the address of the condominium she was held in.
The Malaysian embassy then requested the assistance of Thai Police, which led to the raid on the condominium.
Based on initial investigations, Ridzuan said, the Malaysians arrested in the raid had been led to believe that they were working for an online sales company in Bangkok. Khu said she had applied for the job of customer service in Thailand and was promised RM5,500 (S$1,769) for three months of work.
She entered Thailand on Aug 28
To her and her co-workers' horror, soon after arriving in the Thai capital, they were confined to a condominium with their passports, cash and handphones seized.
They suffered beatings for refusing to work or causing trouble, he said, adding that they were told to call potential victims and converse with them in Mandarin to offer several fake schemes.
Khu said she was beaten up by the Taiwanese man after she failed to get others to transfer money to the syndicate. She said she was hit with an iron pipe on her hip, thigh and arms. The Taiwanese man also allegedly stabbed the back of her hands with a knife and sometimes intimidated her by pointing a knife to her throat.
Zhao was found to have entered Thailand in early August. He has reportedly admitted to have beaten Khu.
The Thai police, according to Ridzuan, thanked the Malaysian embassy for the information on the syndicate, which proved that "Macau Scam" syndicates are active in Bangkok.
The term "Macau scam" was coined because it is believed that such scams originated from Macau or that the first victims came from there, but this has never been confirmed.
Macau scams usually start with a phone call from a scammer pretending to be an officer from a bank, government agency or debt collector.
The scammer will then claim that the potential victim owes money or has an unpaid fine, often with a very short window of less than an hour, to settle the payment or face "dire consequences".