The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) on Friday said it has so far rescued and assisted over 90 Filipino workers who are victims of human trafficking in Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia.
“Doon lang sa (Only there in) Myanmar… it’s actually 45 and lahat ng 45 na yan lahat sila (all 45 of them are) undocumented,” DMW Secretary Susan Ople told CNN Philippines’ The Source. “Sa Laos, based sa records namin, (In Laos, based on our records) we were able to assist 31 victims and then 22 from Cambodia.”
She said assistance has been provided to the victims, which includes psychosocial counseling, financial assistance, and the filing of cases against their recruiters in coordination with the Philippine National Police.
Last week, Sen. Risa Hontiveros first raised the issue on Filipino workers promised jobs in Thailand, but were instead transported to Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone or Yatai New City in Myanmar to become “crypto scammers” under an alleged Chinese syndicate.
Based on her conversation with the victims, Ople said the so-called “techno parks” are located in remote areas. The victims are brought to a small airport in northern Thailand, then they go on an 8-hour journey to cross the border to Myanmar along a river, she added.
Ople said coordination is ongoing with relevant agencies to rescue those who still need help.
So far, only those Asian countries have been confirmed with such cases of human trafficking, she said.
While there are no problems with coordination with authorities in Laos and Cambodia, Ople said Myanmar is a special case given the political situation there.
“I think it was May of this year, maaga pa lang nag-issue na kami ng suspension ng deployment to Myanmar based na rin sa alert level na in-impose ng Department of Foreign Affairs. Yan ang major problem, sino ang kakausapin, wala naman functional na civilian government doon,” the DMW secretary pointed out.
[Translation: I think it was May of this year, early on we issued a suspension of deployment to Myanmar based on the alert level imposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is the major problem, who will we talk to, there is no functional civilian government there.]
Ople said most of the recruitment for the illegal scheme is done online by attracting the victims to work as call center agents in Thailand, Vietnam, or Malaysia.
The official said while the government is always ready to help, “the decision point is reached by the applicant” since the online process only involves the person applying and the recruiter.
“Nakikiusap kami sa ating mga kababayan, kahit may katiting kayo na duda, huwag na kayong tumuloy kasi you also have a personal responsibility sa sarili nyo at tsaka sa pamilya nyo to get out of harm’s way,” Ople said. “Of course, we will be there at the point when you need us most… but your best self-defense is awareness and kutob, yung kutob nyo pakinggan nyo kasi that’s telling you something is wrong and then verify with us.”
[Translation: We are asking our fellow citizens, if you have even a slight doubt, do not push through because you also have a personal responsibility for yourself and your family to get out of harm’s way. Of course, we will be there at the point when you need us most, but your best self-defense is awareness and hunch, listen to your hunch because that’s telling you something is wrong and then verify with us.]