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Indians pulled into Cambodia cryptocurrency scam demand more local jobs as ‘quick money dream’ sours

Starved and locked in a room under round-the-clock video surveillance, Dinabandhu Sahu spent sleepless nights wondering if he would ever again see his family back home in India after he was duped into a job scam in Cambodia.

Sahu jumped at the chance to earn US$900 a month in Vietnam as a data entry operator with free meals and accommodation last June after working a string of short-lived jobs in similar fields which paid a fraction of the wage he was promised abroad.

“Even though my family members insisted I shouldn’t go, I felt relieved when I got this offer,” said Sahu, who hoped the new job would help him clear debts of 350,000 rupees (US$4,190).

“I started imagining a great future,” Sahu, 41, said at his home in Golanthara, a village in the eastern state of Odisha.

But after arriving in Vietnam, he and four other Indian recruits were smuggled into neighbouring Cambodia where their passports were taken, and they were put to work on online cryptocurrency scams.

Sahu was one of the 250 Indians recently rescued and repatriated over several months by the government after they were lured into fraudulent employment in Cambodia.

Online job scams targeting desperate jobseekers have been on the rise in India, labour and cybersecurity experts say.

The trend highlights a tough labour market in India, where unemployment and a lack of skilled, permanent jobs – especially in rural areas – are leading concerns in the ongoing general election that ends on June 1.

As voters go to the polls, Sahu urged them to hold authorities to account and demand justice for victims of jobs scams – as well as better employment opportunities at home.

“Whoever comes to power must address this issue and ensure such tragedies don’t befall others,” he said. “The