From mid 19th century to early 20th century, the Chinese contract workers or “coolies” took over the place of Black Slaves as the world’s most miserable group of migrants. Many of them were forced into cheap labor in places as diverse as North America, Australia and Southeast Asia.
The exact number of these “illegal migrants” was unknown, but it was estimated that more than six million Chinese laborers had departed from the ports of Guangzhou, Macau, Shantou, Xiamen and Quanzhou back in those years.
Most of these laborers, many illiterate, lived in impoverished remote villages with very rudimentary communication amenities. They knew their venture abroad was not going to be smooth and were well aware that they might not make good money there. Nevertheless, out of sheer desperation back home, these people had no choice but to pawn their future and even lives traveling abroad for work.
What we can’t understand is that after more than a century now, with information readily available in our highly connected world of the third decade of the 21st century, there are still plenty of “new age coolies” duped to work in countries far less developed than ours, such as Cambodia and Myanmar.
The victims are well read intellectuals from countries which are much more developed and affluent, and we are not just talking about Malaysia, but also Taiwan and China!
As a matter of fact, so long as they are willing, these people should be able to find out a whole lot more about similar scams from newspapers or the Internet. Unfortunately, they have allowed their own greed to rationalize all sorts of absurd and illogical hiring ads posted on social media by well connected and tech-savvy syndicates.
The eventuality? They get swindled to engage in unlawful work in countries far worse than where their grandparents or great grandparents were “sold” to work as cheap labor a little over a century ago, under far worse working conditions and having to suffer far worse destinies.
Unlike our ancestors who still had a chance to go back to their native China if they worked hard and saved up enough money, the “new age coolies” sold to places like Cambodia and Myanmar today might lose their precious lives there and have their body organs harvested by the criminal syndicates for sale in the black market!
Today, we tirelessly keep reminding young Malaysians dreaming to get rich soon that there’s no such thing as a free lunch under the sun.
If we stay out of trouble, nothing bad is going to happen to us. The thing is, many of these people are actually baited out of own willingness, prompting the Global Anti-Scam Org (GASO) to declare two weeks ago that it would stop wasting their time and resources to “save” Malaysian and Taiwanese scam victims.
Although the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO or popularly known as Interpol) can conduct investigations on major cross-border criminal activities such as money laundering and digital crimes in 194 countries (excluding Taiwan), it lacks the enforcement power if there is no extradition agreement between the two countries involved.
As minister in the prime minister’s department Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar mentioned in the 11th Asean law ministers meeting last year, it was utterly important for Asean member states to ratify the Asean extradition treaty.
However, the drafting of the treaty will take two years, even as we have no time to waste to battle serious cross-border criminal activities.
She Zhijiang, who was recently arrested in Thailand and repatriated to China, was not only involved in cross-border online gambling, but was also alleged by GASO as one of the masterminds of human-trafficking syndicate “KK Park” in Myanmar.
She Zhijiang is not the only cross-border criminal case involving a Chinese national who has colluded with irresponsible local police and officials to run a massive and systematic international syndicate.
According to the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US State Department on July 19, China, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam were given the lowest Tier 3 rating among 188 countries and territories for their efforts to tackle human smuggling.
So, do you think we should trust an unrealistically high-paying job offered in any of these countries?
As a Taiwanese investor in Cambodia has said, local wages are very low while corruption is rife. Making easy money out of the country is like building castle in the air. The Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville is a hub of illegal gambling, gangsterism, money laundering and frauds. And the capital Phnom Penh is not going to be outdone in vice!
Most of the Malaysian victims have been duped to work in online scams. As for the Taiwanese, many young women were cheated to work as prostitutes in Cambodia and Myanmar, forcing the Taiwanese authorities to get aviation police personnel to hold placards at the main airport to warn potential oversea job-seekers.
Even as our ancestors might have been “sold” to work in Southeast Asia, at least they had a chance to go back to China one day if they worked very hard and made some money. On the contrary, the outlook of “new age coolies” sold to places like Cambodia and Myanmar is much dimmer. If left unrescued, they might even lose their precious lives far away from home and have their body organs harvested by the criminal syndicates for sale in the black market!