Indian Youths Duped into Scams in Laos After Promised High-Paying Jobs in Thailand

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Representational image (Photo: RNZ)

Approximately 25 to 30 young Indians fell prey to a scam promising high-paying jobs in Thailand, only to find themselves coerced into illegal work in Laos. They were ensnared by a criminal syndicate and compelled to operate a call center, scamming individuals across Europe, the United States, and Canada.

The ordeal came to light when Siddharth Yadav, a 23-year-old from Thane city, lodged a complaint with the Mumbai police on 24 March. Yadav, who managed to return to India with the assistance of the Indian embassy in Laos, recounted experiences of exploitation and coercion.

Yadav, a graduate in hotel management, recounted his experience, stating that he was initially contacted by an individual offering a job at a call center in Thailand with an attractive monthly salary of Rs 65,000 (around USD 780). After paying a commission and receiving what seemed like legitimate documents, including an offer letter and flight tickets, Yadav began his journey to Thailand in December 2022.

However, upon arrival in Chiang Rai, Yadav and others were redirected to the Laos border by Chinese individuals. Transported by boats and vehicles to the Golden Triangle area, they were coerced into fraudulent activities, including making deceptive calls to solicit cryptocurrency investments from individuals in the US, Europe, and Canada.

Working conditions were described by Yadav as “harsh,” with stringent rules including fines for minor infractions. Additionally, promises of salaries went unfulfilled, leading to discontent among the victims, the Indian Express reported.

As tensions escalated, Yadav and his companions decided to seek assistance from the Indian embassy, prompting retaliation from the traffickers who confiscated their belongings, including mobile phones, and resorted to violence to deter them from seeking help.

Yadav’s account detailed instances of physical assault and threats against their families if they attempted to escape or report the situation to authorities. However, with intervention from the Indian embassy and local law enforcement, the victims were eventually rescued and returned to India.

A senior Indian police officer involved in the investigation said that efforts are underway to apprehend the perpetrators behind the trafficking racket, with two of the suspects believed to be based in Mumbai, India.

This is not the first instance of such deception targeting Indian youths. In a similar incident in October 2022,  a total of 130 Indians were rescued by authorities after falling victim to a fake job scheme that promised employment opportunities in Thailand but were instead forced into cybercrime activities in Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, targeting Western countries.

The harrowing experience faced by these young Indians highlights the serious issues of human trafficking and exploitation in the region, emphasizing the need for greater vigilance and international cooperation to combat such crimes.