Foreign ministry seeks consular access to 12 nationals arrested in Cambodia

The foreigners, originating from Taiwan (12) and China (6), are currently being questioned at the provincial police headquarters. (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Twelve Taiwanese nationals were arrested in Cambodia last week for alleged telecom fraud, and Taiwan’s nearest representative office is requesting consular access to visit the suspects, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed on Tuesday.

Taiwan, China nationals held in Cambodia over Internet extortion charges

“We are fully aware of the case in which 18 telecom fraud suspects, including 12 Taiwanese, were apprehended in Kampong Speu in Cambodia on July 17,” said MOFA Deputy Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) at a press conference.

With the case still under investigation, the ministry has instructed people from its representative office in Ho Chi Minh City to contact Cambodian police and related authorities to get the details of the case and to see if any other Taiwanese were involved.

“We are currently requesting consular access from Cambodian authorities to check the condition of the Taiwanese suspects,” Ou said.

While emphasizing that MOFA will ask Cambodian authorities to ensure the basic rights of the Taiwanese suspects, Ou also warned Taiwanese nationals abroad to abide by laws of the host country and not to get involved in criminal or illegal activities.

Cambodian media Khmer Times reported on July 19 that local police and immigration officers arrested 18 Chinese nationals suspected of telecom fraud in Kampong Speu province on July 17.

Law enforcement officers confiscated 21 phones, five laptops, two printers, 33 desktop computers and six walkie-talkies during the operation, the report said.

It did not mention the scams used by these suspects, but based on previous similar cases, telecom fraud suspects usually defraud Chinese nationals in their home country by phone.

This is not the first time Taiwanese nationals have been arrested in Cambodia.

In December 2018, Cambodian authorities deported 46 Taiwanese to China, prompting an objection from Taiwan, which argued that sending its nationals to China infringed on Taiwan’s sovereignty.

In recent years, many Taiwanese suspects involved in telecom fraud have been sent to China after Beijing made such a request.

Since 2016, at least 650 Taiwanese telecom fraud suspects apprehended in a third country have been deported or extradited to China by host governments, according to data from the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

By Emerson Lim