Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Cambodia Reaffirms Commitment to Tackle Online Scams with Malaysia

Prime Minister Hun Manet and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at a joint press conference at Kuala Lumpur, February 27, 2024. (Hun Manet’s Facebook)
Prime Minister Hun Manet and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at a joint press conference at Kuala Lumpur, February 27, 2024. (Hun Manet’s Facebook)

Prime Minister Hun Manet and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim have agreed to collaborate in several areas including economy, trade and investment, as well as combat human trafficking and labor abuse.

In his first official trip to Malaysia, Hun Manet said to tackle the challenges posed by online scams, Cambodia will share information to support the regional collaboration.

“On defense and security, we reaffirm our commitment to strengthen military cooperation and sustain collaborations including information exchange and tackling regional challenges posed by online scams,” he said.

He also thanked the Malaysian government for taking good care of Cambodians residing there and facilitating assistance to the workers in Malaysia.

In return, Anwar showed gratitude to Hun Manet as well as the Cambodian police and immigration for resolving the issue of Malaysian victims affected by jobs scams in Cambodia. “You were very forthcoming and very fast,” Anwar told Hun Manet.

Cambodia was classified as a Tier 3 nation in June 2023, the lowest possible classification, according to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. It indicated that the government had not taken “serious and sustained” efforts to eradicate human trafficking and hold offenders responsible.

The report also identified Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia on Tier 2 watchlist, which meant they could be downgraded to Tier 3 if advances in anti-trafficking measures were not achieved.

According to the 2023 national police report, Touch Sokhak, spokesperson at the Ministry of Interior, told CamboJA that 11 Malaysians were sent back to their country following their alleged illegal detention in Cambodia. This is a global issue and not just a Cambodia issue alone, he reminded.

To prevent online scams or job scams, Cambodia and other stakeholders need to jointly find a solution, save victims and punish those who commit such crimes.

“We need to cooperate with other partners and embassies to alert the public and foreigners, train our officers and update them about new technologies. We also need modern equipment to investigate and crack down on those offenses,” said Sokhak.

He also mentioned that the government always takes action to combat and prevent human trafficking, which is a human rights and global issue.

In 2023, the police recorded 157 cases, arresting 185 people, who were sent to court, while 495 people were rescued. Of that, 131 were sexual crimes and 26 were human trafficking, according to Sokhak. 

At a press conference on Tuesday evening following Hun Manet’s return from Malaysia, minister delegate Jean François Tan said Cambodia and Malaysia will exchange data to combat cybercrime.

“Both countries agree to enhance and strengthen security cooperation, especially with regards to information exchange to combat cybercrime,” said Tan, while making note of the 67-year relationship between both parties.

Licadho operation manager Am Sam Ath said online scams are a form of human trafficking, which has elicited widespread criticism from national and international organizations. Malaysia also informs her citizens about the risks and to carefully consider applying for jobs abroad as they might be linked to online scams.

“We see this problem here and there are more reports from UNOHR. UN rapporteur used to raise online scams issues relating to human trafficking. It is crucial that we prevent and suppress it. Cambodia has strengthened cooperation with neighboring countries and regional countries, not only with Malaysia, to stop online scams,” said Sam Ath.

Combatting online scams depends on the will of the government and Cambodia needs to strengthen the capabilities of the force and be up-to-date as online scams use high technology. “Cambodia needs to train officers to be up-to-date on modern technology to identify offenses relating to technology, trafficking and online fraud,” said Sam Ath. 

According to the Ministry of Interior, a five-year national strategic plan (2024-2028) has four strategies, including strengthening the criminal justice system in response to human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and increasing protection of victims. 

The bilateral meeting with Malaysia also touched on cooperation on political-security, trade and investment, tourism, labor, halal food industry, ICT and digital technology, and energy security.

On the energy front, Cambodia appreciated Malaysia’s principal support for facilitating Laos, Cambodia and Singapore undersea power transmission cable project which crosses the Malaysian seabed. In addition, Cambodia asked Malaysia to consider participating in the undersea power transmission cable project to ensure regional energy security. 

Looking at trade development, Cambodia and Malaysia will establish a joint technical committee to explore additional avenues and inject new energies into economic and trade relations. “We discussed collaborations in education, training, customs, halal industry and the possibility of expanding imports of agricultural products in the two countries,” said Hun Manet.

Meanwhile, Anwar said Malaysia has a huge potential of boosting palm oil and white rice trade volumes. The trade ministries of both countries will use the joint technical committee platform to address the challenges and find solutions for both trade and tourism.

“Investment has been there but we should expect more investment into Cambodia and from Cambodia to Malaysia,” he added.