PETALING JAYA: When Lim Zin Xin and Teoh Chi Peng, both aged 20, were offered jobs with salaries of up to RM8,000 per month, they packed their bags in Nibong Tebal and headed to Thailand with a friend.
They found themselves stranded in the Golden Triangle area, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, and were told that their families would have to pay up to RM80,000 if they ever wanted to go home.
In George Town, the families of two men – Ah Yuan and Ah Tai – had to pay RM60,000 to secure the release of the two who were trapped in Myanmar. That was cheap.
The “snakeheads” can demand RM300,000 or more for each Malaysian in their clutches.
Lured by the promise of handsome salaries abroad, many Malaysians have found themselves duped and fallen victim to job scams.
Tales of their despair have also gripped the nation, with the plight of victims being highlighted in recent weeks.
They were reportedly beaten, starved and in some cases threatened with rape. They are forced to work as scammers at online scam call centres in countries such as Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.
The working hours are brutal, with some saying they had to work up to 16 hours a day. Their captors are cruel. They demand hefty ransoms.
On May 13, a victim trapped in Myanmar claimed he was placed in a tightly guarded area where trafficked people were forced to call prospective victims from around the world.
On April 7, there were reports of Malaysians being held captive by armed men at a compound in Cambodia after they were tricked by human trafficking syndicates and had no choice but to work in their captors’ online scam call centres.
They claimed they were locked up, beaten and starved while the girls were threatened with rape.
The compound was alleged to be secured by armed men.
On March 30, it was reported that several young Malaysians became victims after being lured with telemarketing and customer service job offers in Cambodia.
The victims were approached personally through contacts or social media advertisements.
Once there, they were forced to make calls to unsuspecting victims from their respective countries.
Even the disabled are not spared from such torments.
On May 9, it was reported that a 22-year-old man with a learning disability was held in Cambodia after being taken there by agents who even lodged a false police report to enable him to get a new passport.
The agents then threatened to transfer him to other places or, worse, have his organs sold in the black market unless he could pay a sum about RM46,000.
Previously, Melaka MCA Youth chief Denis Lee Han Lim said Malaysians were in high demand by crime syndicates due to their proficiency in multiple languages and were tasked with scamming mostly Westerners.
“Additionally, they are forced to work under harsh conditions along the Myanmar-Thailand border,” he said in an interview.
MCA’s Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong said paying the ransoms also does not guarantee the return of human trafficking victims.He added that the police advised victims and their families not to pay up as there had been cases of victims still being held even after the payment was made.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah, in an interview, said Malaysians who received job offers from foreign countries could check with Malaysian missions to verify if the job offer is genuine.
This was in light of recent cases of Malaysian youths falling prey to human trafficking syndicates.