This briefing paper sets out human rights concerns arising since early 2021 from online scam operations in Southeast Asia including their link to human trafficking and other serious human rights violations and abuse. The paper also includes recommendations drawn from international human rights standards.

These concerns occur in the context of wide-ranging digital criminal activity such as romance-investment scams, crypto fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling. At the time of writing this paper, the situation remains fluid: hundreds of thousands of people from across the region and beyond have been forcibly engaged in online criminality, States within the region are trying to identify actions and policies to address this phenomenon, while criminal actors are reacting by finding ways to change and relocate their operations, building new centres across the region and upgrading existing compounds.

Reported movements of victims to Southeast Asia’s scam centres

Locations of referenced scam centres (non-exhautive list)