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23-year-old Malaysian escapes month-long job scam ordeal at Thai-Myanmar border

A 23-year-old Malaysian, ensnared by a deceptive job offer, has been rescued from a harrowing month-long ordeal in Myawaddy, Myanmar.

Lured by the promise of RM200 (approximately US$42.63) daily earnings in Thailand via a Facebook job ad, the young man found himself trapped in Myanmar.

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MALAYSIA: A 23-year-old Malaysian, who fell victim to a human trafficking syndicate’s deceptive job offer, has been successfully rescued from Myawaddy, Myanmar after a harrowing month-long ordeal, all without having to pay a ransom.

The daring rescue mission was carried out by representatives from the Malaysian Humanitarian Organization (MHO) who personally flew to Thailand, utilizing their connections to enlist the assistance of Thai military personnel.

Their efforts culminated in the successful retrieval of the victim, who had been ensnared by a job scam in Myanmar for over a month.

The young man, identified as Mr Lai from Penang, safely returned to Malaysia on Wednesday (20 Sep), at 10:30 PM.

He was accompanied by MHO representatives who played a pivotal role in his rescue.

The operation involved extricating him from a building used as a syndicate centre before transporting him to Mae Sot, a town near the Thailand-Myanmar border.

During a press conference held at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Mr Lai shared his harrowing ordeal, and his parents, who had journeyed from northern Malaysia, were present to warmly reunite with their son and take him back home.

Deceived by a Facebook job ad

Mr Lai’s ordeal began in early August when he responded to a job offer related to sound system work through Facebook.

The offer promised daily earnings of RM200 in Thailand. However, it turned out to be a trap, and he found himself in Myanmar.

“I took a flight to Bangkok, and all the round-trip tickets were purchased by the agents,” Mr. Lai recounted.

“On the afternoon of the day following my arrival in Bangkok, a driver of a passenger and cargo truck came to pick me up, along with another fellow Penangite (23 years old). We were then transported to Myanmar. During the journey, I sensed that something was amiss, so I discreetly contacted my family.”

Mr Lai revealed that upon arriving at the Myanmar compound, he was not subjected to abuse, and the “company” provided two daily meals at 11 AM and 5 PM.

However, as he underwent training with the “company,” he was gradually coerced into engaging in fraudulent activities.

His responsibilities included creating counterfeit Facebook accounts to initiate conversations with potential victims and exploit them financially. He was also involved in luring individuals into becoming “Piglets,” a term used in this illicit trade.

Brutal assault and torture

“It was only after they discovered that I had contacted MHO using my phone that they began beating me with wooden sticks, resulting in bruises on my face and back,” Mr Lai revealed.

The victim’s physical condition was dire, with visible bruises on both eyes and injuries from being struck with a wooden object on his back. Additionally, he had sustained burns from being subjected to fire.

Datuk Hishamuddin Hashim, the Secretary-General of the Malaysian Humanitarian Organization (MHO), highlighted the critical role played by the victim’s possession of his own phone.

This phone, provided temporarily by the syndicate, allowed him to contact his parents through WhatsApp once he reached Myanmar, unravelling the mystery of his disappearance.

Following his abduction, the victim contacted his family on three occasions, pleading for a ransom of RM50,000 (approximately US$10,660) to secure his release from the syndicate’s clutches.

In response, his parents promptly filed a police report and sought assistance from MHO representatives.

Desperate families struggle with hefty ransoms

Hishamuddin expressed the organization’s ongoing commitment to addressing the issue of human trafficking, with approximately 30 cases in Myanmar reported by victims’ families.

Many of these cases have persisted for over a year without resolution.

He went on to describe the modus operandi of the syndicate, which typically contacts victims’ families to demand exorbitant ransoms.

Failure to comply results in victims being subjected to abuse, deprivation of food, and physical assaults with blunt objects.

The ransom amounts demanded by the syndicate have ranged from RM30,000 to RM150,000, creating a heavy burden for the victims’ families.

In one instance, a family had already paid RM150,000, only to find that the syndicate had not released the victim as promised.

In the most recent case, a family was coerced into paying a staggering RM1.2 million (US$ 255,781), having already disbursed RM90,000 to the syndicate to secure the victim’s release.

This financial strain forced the family to sell their land to obtain the necessary funds.

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