Cambodian authorities revealed Monday that they have apprehended 176 suspects in relation to suspected human trafficking crimes over the past month after receiving almost 300 complaints from “relatives, embassies and international organizations”.
Speaking to media after a closed-door meeting with working groups from Cambodia’s provinces – held in response to a weekend directive from Prime Minister Hun Sen to crack down on illegal gambling – Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said the 176 suspects were all apprehended between 18 August and 18 September and all in connection with illegal gambling and human trafficking.
He also revealed a total of 289 complaints had been received of which around 95% turned out to be valid, according to The Khmer Times. Most victims had been forced to work in illegal gambling dens with 212 of those complaints relating to Sihanoukville.
It was also reported that the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration said on Sunday that they have rescued 495 foreigners during a series of raids carried out over the past week in Sihanoukville’s Bei commune.
The Prime Minister ordered a renewed crackdown on illegal gambling on Saturday, stating “I would like to issue a very strict order, please take decisive and timely action.
“I do not hesitate with the removal of the capital-provincial governors, district governors, Khans, municipalities or any level of police officers who are found to be irresponsible.
“I would like to inform you that it is no longer possible to tolerate anarchic situations in the casino. We must be strict.”
The order comes amid a dramatic rise in reported cases of human trafficking and kidnappings linked to the rampant casino industry in the Southeast Asian country, with 56 Vietnamese workers fleeing a casino in Bavet on Saturday. A similar instance in which around 40 detained workers fled across the Cambodia-Vietnam border made headlines only weeks earlier.