Inside the “Garden of Hell” Casino Complex, Where People Are Tortured and Forced to Scam

  • People are lured to KK Garden in Myanmar under the pretense of easy work
  • They are tortured inside the complex and forced to work in online scam centers
  • Zhen Feng, a 23-year-old Malaysian man, died in hospital after being held captive 
  • Mohd Farhan made it out alive but claims he and his friends were tortured
Hands tied behind chair
In Myanmar casino complex KK Garden, victims are held captive and forced to work in scamming centers. [Image:]

Taken prisoner

As reported by the BBC, the UN has estimated that hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have been trafficked to Southeast Asia to run online scams. One location suspected as a headquarters for these nefarious operations is KK Garden in Myanmar, otherwise referred to as the “Garden of Hell.”

a hub for organized crime and scamming operations

Found in the Myawaddy village of Shwe Kokko, KK Garden is a casino and entertainment complex with Chinese investment, according to local officials. Those who have been lucky enough to escape the compound have a much different view, however, claiming that it is a hub for organized crime and scamming operations.

The criminals in charge often lure people from other Southeast Asia countries by offering easy work and extravagant perks, with a particular focus on Malaysian victims. Once they arrive, they are held prisoner and forced to work in online scam centers. Stories from victims and their families can offer us a glimpse inside the “Garden of Hell.”

Zhen Feng – 23 years old

Often, the inhuman conditions of KK Garden can lead to tragedy for those lured there, with many workers subjected to torture. One such instance involved Goi Zhen Feng, a 23-year-old student who was just about to graduate as a teacher. Instead, his parents had to make the heartbreaking journey to Thailand to collect his ashes last year.

Zhen Feng fell prey to a “pig butchering scam,” in which the organization catfishes the victim to gain their trust before luring them to a foreign country. Thinking he was meeting a “girlfriend” that he had only spoken with online, Zhen Feng traveled to Bangkok and never came home. He was forced to work as an online scammer in KK Garden.

died in a hospital across the river from the complex, under a fake name

In the last call that he made to his parents, Zhen Feng said that he had been beaten up for supposedly faking an illness. He asked his parents for money so that he could be hospitalized. Zhen Feng spent a month in intensive care for a heart and lung infection before ultimately succumbing to his ailments. He died in a hospital across the river from the complex, under a fake name.

Zhen Feng’s father, Goi Chee Kong, spoke with AP News in December last year. He said: “We are slowly accepting the reality that my son is dead. I hope my son is the first and last (Malaysian) to die due to such scams.”

Mohd Farhan Azman – 19 years old

Other victims of KK Garden lucky enough to make it out of the compound can provide a clearer picture of life within. Mohd Farhan Azman is one such survivor. He spent four months in the Myanmar compound, describing it as “a living hell.”

The Malaysian was lured to Thailand by the offer of a housekeeping job. There, he and four friends were taken to Myanmar by car before being transported into KK Garden by boat, escorted by people carrying guns.

It’s a complete town except for a police station or a mosque”

“You can find everything there,” the 19-year-old told The Star. “It’s a complete town except for a police station or a mosque.” Mohd Farhan said the “Garden of Hell” was equipped with four-meter-high walls, barbed wire, and even armed guards carrying guns and explosives. He claims there were around 1,000 Malaysians trapped in the compound.

When he and his friends refused to work as scammers, they were subjected to daily beatings, according to Mohd Farhan. Their captors demanded that they ask their parents for ransom money of RM15,000 ($3,300) to secure their release. “The last eight days that we were there, we were not given any food, so we only drank water,” he said.

Mohd Farhan ultimately managed to escape but not before he and his friends were almost sold to another syndicate. They ran to a restaurant and asked the owner for help during their transportation.

What is being done?

As reported by Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama, rescue work is ongoing, although slow due to lack of resources. The media outlet spoke with Assemblyman Sim Chon Siang in March. He had been completing rescues from Myanmar for almost a year and had just returned to the country with five more Malaysian victims.

criticized the Malaysian Foreign Minister for not taking more action

Sim Chon Siang revealed that he had to complete the work “on his own dime,” and criticized the Malaysian Foreign Minister for not taking more action. The March rescue mission was his last, having announced his retirement from the rescue work months prior. It’s a job he fell into inadvertently after helping one of his constituents try to rescue their son

After conducting its report into SE Asia trafficking, the UN urged local governments to crack down on these criminal networks. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, said: “All affected states need to summon the political will to strengthen human rights and improve governance and the rule of law, including through serious and sustained efforts to tackle corruption.”

With thousands of KK Garden victims still supposedly trapped behind its walls, local government officials need to heed Türk’s words sooner rather than later.

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