Indonesia’s government said Thursday it would tighten supervision at exit points to prevent workers from going to Cambodia with fake job offers, as the number of citizens who have been scammed like this has nearly quadrupled over the last year.
Last month, Cambodian police rescued dozens of Indonesians allegedly being held against their will, tortured, and forced to work long hours with little or no pay, after they were duped into working as cyber scammers in fraudulent investment companies.
Meanwhile, reports have emerged from Cambodia in recent months about migrants from neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam being held against their will by criminal gangs and being forced to work. These include dozens of Vietnamese who reportedly tried to escape from a casino complex in Kandal province in mid-August by jumping into a river.
In the case of Indonesian citizens, many people were being lured to work in Cambodia with the promise of high salaries, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told parliament on Thursday.
“There has been a sharp rise in the number of Indonesian victims from a total of 119 in 2021 to 446 from January to August 2022,” Retno said.
She added that Indonesia had managed to repatriate all of the victims this year so far, and in July-August alone brought back 241 citizens who had been victims of fraud and held captive in the Cambodian seaside city of Sihanoukville.
Retno said that her ministry immediately followed up on reports about fraud and human trafficking committed against many Indonesians in Cambodia by going to see the Cambodian foreign minister, the home affairs minister, and the police chief.
“On Aug. 4, we held a meeting with the Cambodian home affairs minister, who also supervises the police and migration issues in Cambodia,” according to Retno.
Meanwhile, Judha Nugraha, who directs the office for the protection of Indonesians overseas at the foreign ministry, said the ministry had planned several measures to tighten the supervision of migrant workers’ departures from the country.
“To prevent more fraud, we have compiled several prevention steps, one of which is to tighten the supervision of migrant workers’ departures, particularly at the border and exit points of international ports and airports,” Judha told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated news service.
Another step planned by the ministry is the dissemination of public education about migration to prevent prospective workers from becoming victims of fraud, he said.
The government, he said, must play an active role in helping safeguard workers from being lured into employment scams abroad.
“The country must be present. From various interviews that we conducted on cases of migrant workers, we found that the majority of Indonesian migrant workers received information from brokers or sponsors, not from the government,” he said.
Public education ‘essential’
Sukamta, a member of parliament who goes by one name, said public education was “indeed essential.”
“If someone is offered a job abroad with a monthly salary of Rp. 5 million, they will immediately take it. They don’t care about who made the offer, what the risks and the procedures are,” Sukamta said in a meeting with Retno.
Another expert on migrant issues said that human traffickers lure their targets with offers of high salaries, which the Indonesian people have not been well educated about.
“The general pattern of migration is usually from less developed countries to the more developed country. Indonesia is economically better than Cambodia. From that fact alone, [such advertisements or offers] are already suspect,” said Yuherina Gusman, a lecturer on migrant issues and international relations at Al Azhar University in Indonesia.
“The salary range for migrant workers in the ASEAN region is still below 5 million. They offer a salary of 9 million to work in Cambodia, which is above the ASEAN average,” said Yuherina, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional bloc.
Another MP, Nihayatul Wafiroh, said the government needed to strengthen its inter-agency cooperation.
“There must be strengthened coordination between labor stakeholders,” she told BenarNews.
Judha, of the foreign affairs ministry, spoke of a recent cooperative success story in preventing more than 200 Indonesian migrant workers from traveling to Sihanoukville on Aug. 12.
“They had chartered a flight to Sihanoukville,” Judha said, adding the Indonesian authorities managed to stop the flight from taking off.
“Thanks to the cooperation of various parties, we succeeded in thwarting and arresting the traffickers.”
BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.