An inter-ministerial task force has been set up by the Executive Yuan to tackle the issue of Taiwanese being lured to Cambodia with promises of high-paying jobs, but getting stuck there as targets of human trafficking, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said on Thursday.
Legislators, including Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) of the Democratic Progressive Party, told a news conference that a task force should be set up to address problems exposed by reports of Taiwanese being lured to Cambodia, Myanmar and other countries with promises of lucrative jobs before being forced into illegal work while being subject to abuse.
Later in the day, Lo said that a Cabinet-level task force had been set up, with its top priority to have people who are trapped in Cambodia returned home.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
A woman identified only as Pipi (皮皮) told the news conference about her experience working in Cambodia.
Pipi said that a friend arranged a job for her in Cambodia, but when she got there, she was imprisoned in a fenced industrial park.
She was sold four times in seven days, Pipi said, adding that she escaped the facility with help from a local Cambodian provincial governor and a chief secretary through an anti-fraud organization.
Some Taiwanese escaped from the facility by jumping from a building, but sustained leg injuries, she said.
Others were beaten by work managers, who bribed the local police, so it was useless to call the authorities, she said.
Wallace Chow (周民淦), head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told the news conference that the ministry has received reports of similar cases since June last year.
Since January, the number of Taiwanese traveling to Cambodia has exceeded 6,400, Chow said, adding that the numbers were “abnormal.”
An inter-ministerial meeting was held on Monday to discuss issues including how to help people trapped in Cambodia buy air tickets and how to take care of them when they return to Taiwan, with the National Police Agency assigned to establish a dedicated unit to oversee the issue, Chow said.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Ho Chi Minh City, which represents Taiwan’s interests in Cambodia and southern Vietnam, has set up a special task force with personnel to deal with foreign, police, legal, immigration and other affairs, he said.
From June 21 to Wednesday, the representative office in Ho Chi Minh City had received reports from 222 Taiwanese working in Cambodia complaining that their freedom was being restricted, the ministry said.
So far, 51 such people have returned to Taiwan, it said.
When asked whether there were people in Taiwan cooperating with such operations in Cambodia to lure people, Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said that police two days ago had launched an investigation into a case and detained six suspects on suspicion of defrauding 80 people.
They convinced the people to go abroad and reaped NT$80 million (US$2.67 million) in illegal gains, Hsu said.
There is likely collusion between Taiwanese human trafficking groups and overseas rings, which police are investigating, he said.
The National Police Agency earlier this week said that flight records show that about 1,000 Taiwanese have traveled to Cambodia per month in the past few months, but only about 100 per month have returned, leaving a large number unaccounted for.
The data indicate that about 2,000 Taiwanese caught up by human trafficking are in Cambodia against their will, but there could be as many as 5,000 because of blind spots in the data, the police agency said.
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