8 Filipinos rescued from human traffickers return home from Myanmar

Aie Balagtas See
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8 Filipinos rescued from human traffickers return home from Myanmar Members of Migrante International, an organization that monitors the condition of Philippine workers abroad, protest in front of the Department of Migrant Workers in Mandaluyong city in Metro Manila, Jan. 31, 2023.
Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews

Eight Filipinos trafficked to Myanmar and forced to work in alleged Chinese mafia-run cryptocurrency scams were rescued and brought home on Monday, Philippine officials said.

Their return came a month after opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros claimed a Chinese gang involved in illegal gambling and cryptocurrency scams has made Filipinos “the main targets of human trafficking syndicates.”

The four men and four women arrived at Manila’s international airport at dawn where they were assisted by Eduardo Jose de Vega, an undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

 The department reminded Filipinos “to be cautious of spurious jobs offered through social media and avoid falling victim to illegal recruitment and human trafficking schemes.”

 “It is vital to pass through the legal deployment processes in the Philippines and arrive in their countries of destination not as tourists but with actual working visas,” the department said in a statement.

Chinese criminals operating cryptocurrency scams in Southeast Asia wanted Filipinos to work for them because their English language computer skills were good, de Vega told Agence France-Press news agency.

He told the news agency 50 to 70 Filipinos are believed to be working for Chinese scammers operating in Myanmar, while 50 are working for scams in both Cambodia and Laos. “At least 119” had returned to the Philippines since last year, he said.

The men who returned Monday had been recruited online in Dubai “to supposedly work as customer support representatives in Thailand.” From Thailand, however, they were taken to Myanmar and forced to trick individuals into investing in cryptocurrency, according to the foreign affairs department.

The women were arrested by Myanmar authorities after they allegedly illegally entered the country through the Myanmar-Thai Friendship Bridge which is to be used only by Thai and citizens.

The legal entry points for Filipinos or other nationalities are through Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw airports.

The women also were tapped to work for cryptocurrency schemes apparently run by a Chinese mafia, according to officials.

About a month ago, Hontiveros had said that Chinese mafia involved in illegal gambling and cryptocurrency scams were responsible for the rampant human trafficking crimes in Myanmar. 

The senator said she has helped several Filipinos leave Myanmar.

“These fraud factories are part of a disturbing industry that has to be dismantled,” Hontiveros said.

The senator’s office said one woman, who was rescued last month, said she was trafficked to Cambodia where she was promised a job at a call center. The office documented the victim’s plight, which included working 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

The woman, who was not named, said she saw fellow Filipino colleagues tortured by their bosses. Hontiveros’ office determined other victims had been transported to Myanmar.

The report of abuses against Filipino migrant workers in Myanmar came weeks after a Filipina maid was found dead in a Kuwaiti desert, her body partly burned.

About a tenth of the Philippines’ population – roughly 10 million – live and work abroad, making the country one of Asia’s largest labor exporting countries. Most are employed as domestic helpers or as seafarers, and many are undocumented, exposing them to dangerous work conditions.


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