In recent weeks, Cambodia’s state-aligned media has been flooded with articles attempting to recast the narrative around one of the ruling elite’s core economic interests: human trafficking-fueled scamming.
The evidence is overwhelming. Over the past three years, Cambodia has become the epicenter of a globally unprecedented phenomenon in state-facilitated criminality: an online scam industry that enslaves more than 100,000 foreign nationals, according to the (generally conservative and understated) estimates of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), this racket likely generates a staggering $7.5-12.5 billion per year in Cambodia alone.
Independent media reports corroborate the story of the probable scale of Cambodian scam operations and the profound abuse that accompanies them. Victim statements from counter-trafficking NGOs and network analysis by global experts in transnational crime offer further evidence. As do three years of complaints and hand-wringing by Cambodia’s regional neighbors, some of whom are warning their nationals against taking job offers in the country.