Old video of Cambodian police raid recirculated as 'fresh arrests' in Southeast Asia job scams

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

As victims of job scams reported travelling to various Southeast Asian countries on false promises of lucrative employment, social media posts viewed thousands of times shared footage that they claimed showed Chinese police arresting fraudsters in Cambodia and Myanmar. However, the video actually shows Cambodian police detaining Chinese nationals accused of kidnap in August 2020.

"Arrests of telecom fraudsters in Cambodia and Myanmar," reads a simplified Chinese tweet posted on August 22.

"The big boss caught wind and fled a long time ago. They just arrested the pawns. After Chinese police left, the boss came back and continued to commit fraud." 

The tweet shows a video of police storming a building and detaining a group of people.

Screenshot of a tweet sharing the false claim, taken on August 24, 2022

The video racked up more than 55,000 views in similar posts on Twitter and Facebook.

The posts circulated as victims of job scams reported travelling to countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos on false promises of romance or high-paying jobs, and then being detained and forced to work. 

In one case, dozens of Vietnamese casino workers who were allegedly forced to toil without pay in Cambodia fought off security guards to escape and fled back to their homeland by swimming across a river.

Cambodian authorities have launched nationwide immigration checks aimed at cracking down on human-trafficking networks.

Raid from 2020

However, the video circulating online does not show recent arrests in connection with job scams.

The video was published in a Facebook post on August 14, 2020 by the Phnom Penh Gendarmerie, which said it showed officers in the Cambodian capital detaining 29 Chinese nationals on suspicion of kidnap.

The Khmer-language post reads: "On the afternoon of August 14, 2020, the Phnom Penh Gendarmerie sent 29 Chinese suspects to court in accordance with the law for their involvement in the kidnapping of fellow Chinese nationals, which was uncovered on August 12, 2020 at a hotel named Kandal Suon Chhbar in Chaktomuk district".

Three victims were rescued in the operation, it added.

The video matches the footage circulating in a false context in August 2022, as shown by screenshot comparisons below. 

The Facebook post did not give further details on the alleged kidnap.

The Phnom Penh Post also reported on the arrests in an article that features a photo showing the suspects in the video.

Below are suspects seen in the video (left) and in the Phnom Penh Post's article (right).

Screenshot from the Phnom Penh Gendarmerie's Facebook video (L) and the Phnom Penh Post's article on the arrest (R)

The Phnom Penh Post reported that the suspects were repatriated to China.