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Enslaved, escaped, empowered: Indonesian survivor’s odyssey from captive to crusader

For months, he was forced to commit online scams under threats of violence, enduring unthinkable abuse before finally managing to escape. Yet his ordeal did not end there – a lack of action by local authorities left Awan struggling to find justice, underscoring the daunting challenges trafficking survivors face.

Awan’s experience shines a light on the plight of thousands of his fellow Indonesians who remain enslaved abroad, trapped by the same criminal syndicates that lured him in with promises of high-paying overseas work.

“We crossed a river and arrived at a compound guarded by armed men wearing Myanmar military uniforms,” he said.

Upon his arrival at the compound, Awan soon discovered his new “job” was not with Amazon, but rather manning a centre for online scams run mostly by Chinese nationals.

Forced to pose as a successful businessman, he said his role was to cultivate relationships with victims on social media, establishing a rapport before asking for personal details such as their phone numbers and addresses.

“I was told to target individuals with an annual income of more than US$150,000,” he said. “Then a separate team would act on those details by luring the victims into bogus investment, romance or gambling schemes, chosen to suit their profile.”

Working under duress, often for 15 to 18 hours a day, Awan and his fellow captives – Indonesians, Pakistanis, Ghanaians and Moroccans among them – eventually revolted, staging a protest. Their captors promised repatriation, but Awan suspected another ploy and managed to orchestrate an escape with a fellow Indonesian from Sumedang while they were supposedly being transferred to Chiang Mai in November.


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