Hundreds of Thousands Trafficked into Southeast Asian Scam Centers, UN Says

Digital scam operations are generating billions of U.S. dollars in revenue each year, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a new report.

Hundreds of thousands of people are being trafficked by criminal gangs and forced to work in scam centers and other illegal online operations that have sprung up across Southeast Asia since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the United Nations.

In a report published yesterday, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights cited “credible sources” to the effect that at least 120,000 people in Myanmar and at least 100,000 in Cambodia “may be held in situations where they are forced to carry out online scams.” Laos, the Philippines, and Thailand were also cited as countries of destination or transit for people trafficked into scam operations.

The report focuses on a phenomenon that has exploded into public view since the waning of the COVID-19 pandemic: a region-wide wave of digital criminality, perpetrated mostly by Chinese criminal syndicates, which runs the gamut from romance-investment scams and crypto fraud to money laundering and illegal gambling.

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