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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Promises of Australia evaporate for villagers

Promises of Australia evaporate for villagers

Military police have charged the wife of a provincial deputy police chief who allegedly cheated 37 people out of up to US$5,000 for non-existent jobs in Australia.

Lor Lai, Takeo provincial military commander, said yesterday that Heng Keo Dina, the 43-year-old wife of deputy police chief Kuo Keng, was charged with breach of trust on Monday after numerous complaints from victims over the weekend.

“She was detained by the court awaiting trial and what we need to do next is to catch the other brokers who are related to this case,” he said.

The victims, who had been promised jobs as fruit pickers in Australia, had borrowed money, mortgaged land and sold property to raise between $2,500 and $5,000 that the brokers were charging for the phony jobs.

Ses Hot, 39, said he realised he had lost everything after waiting 10 hours with 36 others at Phnom Penh International Airport on Saturday for the brokers, who never arrived.

“We sold our cow, other property, borrowed some money and mortgaged some land,” he said.

“We are poor. We needed jobs so we hoped that we would get a job in Australia, but our hope disappeared when we realised we were really cheated . We lost our money.”

After hesitating, because of threats from the brokers, the group of would-be migrant workers from Takeo and  Battambang provinces and Phnom Penh decided to go to the police.

Panha Than, an integrity officer at the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh, said once brokers names had been verified, they would be flagged.

“This one will go straight into our local warning record and all our case officers will be able to get this information,” he said.

Another official at the Australian Embassy who declined to be named said it was highly unusual for Cambodians to be granted working holiday visas to Australia, which are offered for foreign fruit pickers.

Un Thanann, Takeo provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the victims had not taken the time to consider whether they could realistically get jobs in Australia or not.

“It is a rare case for the broker to cheat people to find a job in Australia. Before, we’ve had cases of [promised jobs] in Thailand, or Malaysia. So it is an example for the residents that they should think before deciding to believe,” he said. 

WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE

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