Interpol Sounds Alarm on Southeast Asia's Human Trafficking, Now a Global Crisis

Interpol Sounds Alarm on Southeast Asia's Human Trafficking, Now a Global Crisis

Interpol announced on Wednesday (March 27) that the organized crime groups responsible for the surge in human trafficking and cyber fraud during the pandemic have expanded from Southeast Asia into a global network generating revenues of up to $3 trillion annually.

Jurgen Stock, Secretary General of Interpol, emphasized that these organized crime groups, driven by online anonymity and inspired by new business models, now operate on a scale unimaginable a decade ago. The criminal threats in the Southeast Asian region have evolved into a global human trafficking crisis, with millions of people falling prey to cyber scams and becoming easy targets for criminals.

An international organized crime syndicate generates $50 billion in annual revenue, while between $2 trillion and $3 trillion in illicit funds flow through the global financial system each year. By comparison, France's economy is valued at $3.1 trillion, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Stock said that while drug trafficking accounts for about 40 to 70 percent of organized crime revenues, criminal groups also use smuggling routes for other illegal activities, such as human trafficking, arms trafficking, and theft.

Interpol reported that its operations in Asia have resulted in nearly 3,500 arrests and the seizure of $300 million in illegally obtained assets in 34 countries since 2021.

On the other hand, the United Nations noted in last year's report that hundreds of thousands of people were victims of human trafficking in online crimes in various regions. The UN also estimated that more than 100,000 people have been trafficked to Cambodia and other places, where they experience conditions that resemble modern-day slavery.

Meanwhile, up to 120,000 individuals may be detained in facilities in Myanmar, which has been embroiled in internal conflict since a military coup in 2021. Myanmar is a strategic hub for fraud syndicates, located in a mountainous region bordering southwestern China. Currently, Beijing is actively working to combat transnational crime targeting Chinese nationals.

In addition, organized crime groups are active in countries such as Laos, Thailand, and the Philippines, where they engage in various forms of online fraud, including illegal gambling, romance scams, and cryptocurrency scams, all of which generate significant profits.

Victims from across Asia are often lured into seemingly legitimate jobs in their respective regions, but are then trafficked to fraud centers where they are subjected to serious abuses. This may include forced labor, arbitrary detention, inhumane treatment, or even torture. Unfortunately, local authorities often provide little or no assistance in such cases.

Source: CNN | Reuters

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