40 Vietnamese Casino Workers Swim to Freedom from Cambodia

Cambodia has had a poor track record with human trafficking. Many overseas workers have been arriving to the country in the hopes of securing a job – some have been lured by fraudsters who assured them that employment was already waiting for them. However, many have fallen victim to human traffickers to the point where China has stepped in and used its financial and geopolitical clout to urge authorities in Phnom Penh to take the issue to heart and tackle trafficking rings.

Cambodia’s Poor Human Traffic Record

So far, things have been going slow, but some foreign casino workers have been able to escape on their own. Whether it’s human traffickers, illegal immigration or deplorable working conditions, the flow of workers in Cambodia has been steadily outward.

The story of casino workers from last week though stresses how much more there is to do to guarantee that human traffickers are brought to justice. At least 40 people broke through a fence at the Golden Phoenix Entertainment Casino in Koh Thom and swam across the river to Vietnam, local media, The Khmer Times, reported.

The group had an altercation with several guards before heading across the river. Three security guards were injured as the workers tried to leave the premises. The exact reasons behind the 40 people’s spontaneous and dangerous decision were not immediately verified. Local media reported that anti-immigration authorities had been closing in while other reports alleged that the people were subject to slave-like labor conditions.

An official statement in the matter was also released by Interior Minister of Cambodia, Sar Kheng, who said that some of the employees claimed exhausting and inhumane working conditions with 14-hour shifts and no good compensation. Kheng was not too sure of the details either.

According to the official, people “might” have been working illegally in the country. Kheng added that while remuneration was promised and agreed at certain rates, they were not honored in full. A total of 35 men and five women undertook the journey across the river with Vietnam. All victims have been now found, Kheng confirmed, and the manager of the casino had been detained.

Humiliated and Insulted

The idea of casinos luring cheap labor from abroad and failing to honor payment and working condition promises is not new. It has been a perennial issue with Cambodian casinos, which has made many loath to even try their luck in the country’s seedy gambling industry. Unconscientious casino managers have benefitted from the fact that many of the workers who arrive are unregistered immigrants with no legal status in the country and no help from the law.

However, the pressure applied by regional behemoths such as China has made Cambodian authorities more aware to the issue. Cambodia has also been put on several global watchlist for its inability to cope with money laundering and human trafficking which has irked authorities in Phnom Penh.

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