BANGKOK — A prominent ethnic minority militia in Myanmar, known as the United Wa State Army (UWSA), has apprehended and returned over 1,200 Chinese individuals accused of participating in online fraudulent activities. This was confirmed by an official representative of the militia on Saturday.
The UWSA, which exercises control over certain parts of eastern Shan state, executed the arrests during operations on Tuesday and Wednesday. Nyi Rang, a liaison officer for the UWSA, communicated this information to the media.
Through written communication, Rang stated that the detained individuals were handed over to Chinese law enforcement at the Panghsang border gate, also referred to as Pangkham City. This city is the heart of the Wa-governed region, which shares its boundaries with China’s Yunnan province.
Across Asia, cybercrime, particularly online scams, has surged. Disturbingly, many of those perpetrating these scams are actually victims themselves. They are often ensnared by criminal groups offering them sham job opportunities, only to be enslaved in harsh virtual working environments.
A recent report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted that criminal syndicates have coerced hundreds of thousands in Southeast Asia into such fraudulent schemes. These scams range from deceptive romantic pursuits to counterfeit investment proposals and illicit gambling activities.
The report pinpointed suspected scam hubs in Myanmar, notably in towns along the Thai border in the southeastern Kayin state and regions like the Kokang Self-Administered Zone and the Wa-ruled city of Mong La on the Chinese frontier.
According to Rang, online fraudulent activities are strictly prohibited in areas overseen by the UWSA and its political faction, the United Wa State Party. He mentioned past arrests of a similar nature.
WSTV, the online media wing of the UWSA, revealed on its Facebook page last Friday that the 1,207 detained Chinese citizens, accused of online deceit, were surrendered to Chinese authorities. This number was corroborated by China’s official Xinhua news agency, which added that the group contained 41 individuals wanted for other crimes.
The United Wa State Army stands as Myanmar’s most formidable ethnic armed group, boasting a 30,000-strong military force equipped with advanced weapons, including heavy artillery and helicopters. It is believed to enjoy a warm relationship with China.
Earlier in July, Chen Hai, the Chinese Ambassador, stressed the importance of joint efforts to combat online scams and gambling during discussions with Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Minister Than Swe in Naypyitaw. Hai had several meetings over the summer to discuss border security.
The same U.N. document also identified southeastern Kayin state on the Thai boundary as a hub for such online scam activities.
It is believed these establishments are central to many illicit activities like online fraud, gambling, and even human trafficking. These centers are the brainchild of Chinese entrepreneurs, developed in collaboration with Myanmar’s local Border Guard Forces.