US Department of State report warns casinos in Asian border towns, special economic zones increasingly used for human trafficking

The US Department of State (DOS) has described the trafficking of humans through casinos across Asia as a growing concern, with the practice particularly prevalent in Special Economic Zones and border towns such as Sihanoukville in Cambodia and the infamous “Golden Triangle”.

The issue was outlined in the department’s 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report, which also names Burma, Cambodia and Macau among a small list of Asian jurisdictions ranked Tier 3 (from a total of four tiers), described as “Countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”

Noting that some traffickers had taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by leveraging pandemic-related economic hardships, increased global youth unemployment and international travel restrictions to exploit thousands, the DOS said that forced criminality in cyber scam operations had emerged as a trend that has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry over the last two years – often using casinos and other shell companies as cover.

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