When a colleague began to tell me about human trafficking in Cambodia my mind anticipated what she was going to say. Back in the 1980s I recalled a scenario in which young Australian women were lured into sexual slavery by promises of high salaries, international travel, and a glamorous lifestyle.
In contrast, my colleague explained how Taiwanese youth were lured to Cambodia in a scheme that initially involved travel to Thailand. Other countries involved in what was a scam included Laos, Myanmar and China. The story was reported in the news in an Al Jazeera report entitled Cyber Slaves. In the Cyber Slaves report, multi-layered scams are involved. The primary lure seems to be an offer of a good job, which appeals to those who have been disadvantaged financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Once a person accepts a job, located in Cambodia, they discover they no longer have their passport, and have to pay a large amount of money to secure release from the cyber jobs they are required to undertake. Only a few of those featured in the news report were able to escape from bondage. Despite efforts to get help from police, politicians and others; people are bought and sold and their price for freedom escalates.
What to do? Heighten awareness. Discuss what is happening with friends and colleagues and search for collective solutions. Perhaps religious leaders have a role to play. There are strong Buddhist traditions in each of the countries mentioned in the report. Also, Buddhist organizations, such as Tzu Chi, are well-known for their proactive action when disasters strike e.g., earthquake, tsunami, pandemic, etc.
Slavery, bribery and torture, just to mention three issues, are salient to wholesome conduct and it is of interest to ask rhetorically for now: when does an issue exceed the threshold required for active intervention? Police, politicians, businesses, foundations that provide aid, and religious institutions all have potential roles in resolving these problems. Also, educators, including researchers, have roles in initiating potentially transformative practices to create pathways to eliminate human trafficking and the associated scams which are designed to exploit people from around the world.