May 11, 2023
JAKARTA – National Police investigators have arrested a man and a woman suspected to be behind the trafficking of more than a dozen Indonesians to Myanmar, where the victims were forced to run online scams, as ASEAN nations seek a stronger regional response to human trafficking.
Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) general crimes director Brig. Gen. Djuhandani Rahardjo Puro said the two individuals, identified as Andri Satria and Anita Setia Dewi, were apprehended in an apartment in Bekasi, West Java, on Tuesday night and named suspects in response to evidence gathered on the same day. They allegedly trafficked at least 20 Indonesians to Myanmar.
“We have questioned five people based on the report” that the family of a victim filed on May 2, Djuhandani said, as quoted in a statement on the police website. He added that investigators were still collecting information from the 20 victims and hunting for other possible suspects, particularly people who recruited the victims on false promises of employment in Myanmar.
Last week, the family of one of the victims, along with the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI), reported the two suspects to authorities.
SBMI head Hariyanto Suwarno said both suspects were part of an international human trafficking ring that had been operating in Greater Jakarta since 2015.
“In 2019, the SBMI raided an illegal migrant worker shelter belonging to the two suspects,” Hariyanto told the press.
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The Foreign Ministry previously said 20 trafficked victims had been rescued on Monday and that they were currently awaiting repatriation. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo described the rescue mission as “not an easy one” as the victims has been held captive in a conflict-ridden area of Myanmar. He also reaffirmed Indonesia’s commitment to eradicating human trafficking.
The arrests come amid an increase in reports of people forced into cyber scams against their will in the region and as ASEAN leaders gather in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, for the bloc’s 42nd annual summit.
Last week, Philippine authorities rescued more than 1,000 people from several Asian nations who had been trafficked into the country and forced to run cryptocurrency scams, AFP reported.
Read also: N. Sumatra foils attempted trafficking of 211 workers to Cambodia
At the ASEAN Summit on Wednesday, Southeast Asian leaders pledged to crack down on online scams operated by human traffickers to prey on vulnerable job seekers, particularly in the poorest countries of the region, and called for a regional approach to combating human trafficking.
Issuing a joint declaration on the matter, the leaders said ASEAN’s efforts to combat human trafficking would include enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies to investigate, collect data, exchange information and conduct joint exercises.
Last year alone, some 1,185 Indonesians fell victim to online job scams in neighboring countries that led to human trafficking, according to data from the Foreign Ministry’s overseas citizen protection directorate. Of that number, 864 people were victims of incidents in Cambodia, 107 in the Philippines, 102 in Laos, 81 in Myanmar and 31 in Thailand.
— Yvette Tanamal contributed to this story from Labuan Bajo.