Authorities in Chiang Rai have rescued an Udon Thani woman who had fallen victim to human trafficking in Myanmar.
The 29-year-old woman, identified only as Nam, had been deceived by Chinese operatives to provide sexual services to call centre workers in Shan state.
The case was brought to the attention of Chiang Rai police and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security by a citizen journalist from the Facebook page Ninja Today.
Working through the National Referral Mechanism, a regional system to share information related to human trafficking, Thai authorities were able to track the woman to a Chinese-operated call centre in Myanmar and then proceeded to rescue her.
Nam returned to her home country on Friday. She told reporters that she was working in a Bangkok restaurant in May of this year when she was approached by a TikTok user who enticed her to work in “customer relations” at a site in Shan state.
Promised a daily payment of 900 Chinese yuan (4,300 baht), with 450 yuan to be deducted for expenses, she reluctantly agreed after initially declining the offer multiple times.
Nam was eventually persuaded to travel north to Chiang Rai and cross the border from Mae Sai district with the assistance of a local smuggler
Once in Myanmar, the woman was taken to a two-storey building surrounded by barbed wire and forced to provide sexual services to the staff of mostly Chinese nationals who, like her, had been deceived into working in the operation.
Other individuals who had been deceived into working with a call centre gang in Myanmar.
She was forced to sign a contract written in Chinese and was told it would bind her for six months. She said she was assaulted after initially declining to sign the document.
When she refused to perform sex acts, the victim said she would be handcuffed in a cell and assaulted as well as starved for up to three days at a time.
Her rescue came when she was able to successfully contact Ninja Today, which then coordinated with the authorities.
Speaking to the media, Nam warned other Thais of falling prey to seemingly high-paying job offers in foreign countries.
According to officials, many human traffickers have switched to using social media and mobile applications to find potential victims. They say the process of rescuing people who have been taken abroad is difficult and time-consuming, urging those seeking employment opportunities to exercise vigilance.
“Hundreds of thousands” of people are being trafficked by criminal gangs and forced to work in scam centres and other illegal online operations that have sprung up across Southeast Asia in recent years, according to a United Nations report released last month.
The report cited “credible sources” estimating that at least 120,000 people across Myanmar and around 100,000 in Cambodia may be trapped in scam operations, with other criminal-owned enterprises in Laos, the Philippines and Thailand ranging from crypto-fraud to online gambling.