Social Network Slave Syndicate Busted by Thai Authorities

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Acting on information and analysis from Freeland, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations (DSI) today announced the arrest of three people for running a human trafficking network that used Facebook and other social media sites to recruit, dupe and intimidate victims across Southeast Asian borders for over two years.

Kheng Hsiang Low, a.k.a. Steven Low, a Malaysian national, used social media sites to recruit women from Thailand, Vietnam and other countries to work at a disguised brothel in Malaysia. Mr. Low was the leader of a group that also traveled to Thailand to conduct business and recruit from Bangkok, Pattaya and a southern Thai city. Facebook postings advertised the jobs for a club and restaurant, while in fact the women were put to work as sex workers upon arrival.

Distressed victims reached out for help through social networking lines to friends, who in turn contacted Freeland, a counter-trafficking group for help. Freeland in turn worked with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and Exodus Road, a partner counter trafficking group, to support information sharing between the victims and law enforcement authorities, including with the Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, to first gain safety and care for the victims. Exodus Road also sponsored care for the victims.

DSI conducted its own thorough investigation, collecting evidence against Mr. Low and other members of his network before issuing arrest warrants on July 19, 2015.

“DSI took our analysis, corroborated it, and added much more information to this case before taking professional action,” said Sombat Tuengwiwat, Director of Intelligence Analysis of Freeland. “DSI is to be congratulated for breaking up this human trafficking syndicate, including removing the boss and his senior team from harming more victims.”

Furthermore, Freeland will represent the victims when the case is brought up to court.

Matt Parker, CEO of Exodus Road said, “This case is a good example of how social media is being used as a tool by traffickers to lure impressionable job-seekers into slavery. It has been encouraging to see the members of Liberty Alliance support law enforcement’s efforts, including ongoing support for victim care.”

Freeland and Exodus Road are part of counter-trafficking alliance called “Liberty Alliance”, which also includes Liberty Asia. Liberty Alliance provides information and other technical support to law enforcement agencies, while providing care for victims and education to support prevention, as well as legal assistance. The Liberty Alliance does not publicize its specific means of gathering information or providing victim care, but does advertise general help through hotlines and social media sites.

For more information, please contact:
Betty Tsai
Director of Communications
betty@freeland.org

Note to Editor:
Freeland is a frontline counter-trafficking organization working for a world that is free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. Our team of law enforcement, development and communications specialists work alongside partners in Asia, Africa and the Americas to build capacity, raise awareness, strengthen networks and promote good governance to protect critical ecosystems and vulnerable people. Freeland is also the lead implementing partner of “ARREST”, the U.S. Government’s largest counter-wildlife trafficking program, which is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). For more info, visit www.freeland.org  also; follow Freeland on twitter @FREELANDpeople or facebook.com/freelandfoundation. Freeland is a member of Liberty Alliance, www.liberty-alliance.org.

Liberty Asia. Established in 2011, Liberty Asia is made up a group of dedicated professionals from different industries who feel strongly that a more effective, coordinated response to slavery is essential and that leveraging technology available to the corporate sector and providing it to the NGO sector will facilitate this response. Liberty Asia’s goal is to provide new solutions to change the way slavery and trafficking is addressed. Where possible, they work with existing organizations to avoid duplication and to ensure resources are used efficiently. Liberty Asia is a Hong Kong registered charitable organization.

The Exodus Road empowers the rescue of sex slaves by making targeted interventions more effective. They believe that collaboration is key to fighting modern slavery. Working with more than 50 undercover investigators in Southeast Asia, India and the United States of America, they meet key deficiencies for those on the front lines by providing covert gear, operational funding, investigative training and networking benefits for the organizations with which they work. The Exodus Road is a registered non-profit organization in the US, with four offices in other parts of the world.

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