Cambodian Worker Arrested for Selling Bank Accounts to Money Laundering Operation

A Cambodian worker was arrested for money laundering after a broker convinced him to sell his bank account, raising concerns about migrant workers’ vulnerability to illegal activities.

After working just one month in Thailand, Cambodian worker Lun Chheng Rong opened a bank account and sold it to a broker who had assisted him in obtaining the necessary legal documents, including a passport, for his employment in Thailand. Chheng Rong’s wife Sorn Saophon said the broker paid 2000 baht for the bank account, but they ended up with only 1500 baht after paying for transportation and a new SIM card. She also said that over 40 Cambodian workers are engaged in this practice.

Although Chheng Rong expressed concerns about the potential risks before selling the account, the broker assured him that there would be no consequences or dangers involved. The broker also told him that the account would no longer be used after one month.

“This shows that brokers in the secret market use tricky methods, and workers who are unaware are joining in without realizing they're doing something against the law,” Kem Chamroeun, a Cambodian consultant in charge of labour in Thailand said on Facebook.

Chheng Rong was arrested on 27 October 2023 after it was found that his account had been used in money launderingBefore his arrest, the police came to the factory he worked at, showing security guards his photo and accusing him of being a scammer. He was confused, but confident that he had done nothing wrong. That day the police left, but returned two days later to arrest him.

Leung Sophon, who works at the Centre for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) in Thailand, said selling bank accounts is a serious crime and that a total of 2 million baht was involved in the money laundering case, which involves 10 bank accounts in the name of Cambodian workers. 3 million baht was transferred through Chheng Rong’s account, and he was the only worker involved to be arrested.

Other workers from the same factory who sold their bank accounts have returned to Cambodia as they are aware they are on a blacklist and are afraid that they will also be arrested. Of the 40 accounts that the workers sold, only 10 are connected to the money laundering case that led the police to arrest Chheng Rong.

According to the new law on Cyber Crime Prevention and Suppression, anyone paid to open a bank account or register a SIM card for a third party can be sentenced to at least three years in prison and fined up to 300,000 baht. In addition, those who advertise or pay other people to open a bank account or register a SIM card for them will face a jail term of two to five years and be fined between 200,000-500,000 baht.

Data provided by the Royal Thai Police showed that 365,547 scam-related complaints were filed via the police website between 1 March 2022 and 30 September 2023 with the total damage amounting to 45 billion baht. Among these are 9,664 cases involving impersonating another person to convince people to transfer them money.

After the Department of Special Investigation found that most of the 83 bank accounts used to transfer money for an online gambling website it was investigating were owned by non-Thais, it warned those employing migrant workers to be careful about how the workers they have vouched for are using their bank accounts to make sure that they are not selling their accounts to criminal networks. Employers might be prosecuted as an accomplice if an account they have vouched for is used for criminal activity.

To open a bank account, foreigners need specific documents including a passport, visa, and documents related to their purpose for entering Thailand, such as a work permit, house registration, or a letter vouching for the account holder from e.g. their employer.

The police imposed a bail security of 500,000 baht for Chheng Rong, which Saophon could not pay. Her employer offered to contribute 100,000 baht towards his bail, but on the condition that Chheng Rong must work at the factory for 15 years and would not be allowed to return to Cambodia – a condition CENTRAL’s Sophon sees as unfair.

“It’s very unfair — a hundred thousand baht for 15 years. Actually, for this amount of money working for a year is enough,” he said.

Secretary of State and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, Orn Katta, said that the Ministry has not yet heard about this case. He said that he reached out to the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand before speaking to Prachatai, but was told by the Embassy that the family was not cooperating.

“The Embassy requested cooperation, but individuals did not cooperate with the Embassy. This case is a crime,” Orn Katta said.

However, Chheng Rong’s family said they had not been contacted by the authorities.

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