Authorities in Cambodia on Friday arrested 36 suspects who are Cambodian, Taiwan and Thailand nationals on suspicion of running a telecoms scam to defraud victims abroad, national military police commander, Sao Sokha, said.
Cambodia, a staunch ally of China, has deported hundreds of Chinese and Taiwanese nationals in recent years in a crackdown on internet and telecoms scams orchestrated from different places in Cambodia, including Phnom Penh.
Authorities in Beijing said that China had been battling telecoms fraud for years, with the scams causing financial losses running into billions of dollars.
Sokha said that the arrests in Phnom Penh and the resort city of Sihanoukville, a Chinese investment hub, reeled in suspects in some of the first scams to target neighboring Thailand.
“They used Cambodia as a place to extort money from victims abroad, including people in Thailand.
“The group, consisting of 26 Thais, six Taiwanese, and four Cambodians accused of online extortion from victims in China and Thailand, would be deported if there was no evidence of crimes committed in Cambodia.
“We don’t allow our country to be a shelter for criminals.”
Sokha said that the raids were conducted in tandem with Thai police, adding that a Thai court had issued arrest warrants for some of the detained Thai nationals.
Beijing accuses Taiwan, an island it claims as its own, of harbouring criminal gangsters behind many of the telecoms scams.
Cambodia, like Beijing, does not recognise Taiwan as an independent nation.
For its part, Taiwan has been upset that Taiwanese extortion suspects have been deported to China in the past and has accused Phnom Penh of acting at the behest of Beijing.
The deportations have come as relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated, with China suspecting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen of pushing for the island’s formal independence.
She said she wants to maintain peace with China but will defend Taiwan’s security and democracy.
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