Myanmar junta arrests 1,000 Chinese nationals in Shan state

They are believed to have been involved in illegal scamming operations.
By RFA Burmese
2024.01.26
Myanmar junta arrests 1,000 Chinese nationals in Shan state Myanmar junta authorities released this photo of Chinese nationals arrested in Namhsan, southern Shan state, Jan. 26, 2024. Blurring in photo is from source.
People's Media

Myanmar junta authorities arrested more than 1,000 Chinese citizens in Namhsan, in southern Shan state, who had possibly fled from online scam crackdowns in the north, the ruling military council and area residents said.  

Of the 1,038 Chinese nationals who illegally entered Namhsan, capital of the Pa Laung Self-Administered Zone, on Jan. 23, some 1,002 were men and three dozen others were women, the junta announced on Friday. They were arrested in three different areas of the town.

More than 200 of those arrested are being temporarily detained in an indoor stadium, said a local resident who declined to be named for fear of his safety, adding that he didn’t know the whereabouts of the others.

The Chinese nationals may have been involved in online scamming gangs and fled to Namhsan on account of armed conflict between junta forces and ethnic armies and resistance fighters, and a crackdown on Chinese cybercrime rings in Laukkaing, Tachileik and Mongla — other towns in Shan state — residents said.

A hub for crystal methamphetamine trafficking, Shan state is rife with other illegal activities in enclaves along the Chinese border, as criminals take advantage of ongoing civil unrest and armed conflict under the junta which seized power in a 2021 coup. 

Northern Shan state has become a focal point for Chinese scammers who target their own citizens.

In August 2023, Chinese authorities initiated a crackdown on online scam operations on the border between China and northern Shan state. Chinese nationals involved in the illegal activities in the Wa region and Mongla were arrested for the first time. 

Fighting in Shan state intensified following a offensive on Oct. 27, 2023, by three allied rebel ethnic armies on junta outposts in different locations, including the strategic towns of Laukkaing, Namhkan, Kutkai and Lashio. 

The ethnic armies, known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance, said they launched the armed assaults to exert greater control over the self-administered regions within their territories, reduce the junta’s air and artillery strike capabilities, and crack down on criminal activities – including online scam operations — along the country’s northeastern border with China.

Since Dec. 10, China’s Ministry of Public Security has issued arrest warrants for 10 people, including Bai Suocheng, the Kokang Self-Administered Zone’s former leader and a former member of parliament from the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party, for their involvement in online scams.

This prompted thousands of Chinese nationals who worked in online scamming operations to flee to the interior of southern and northern Shan state, people who used to work at the illegal businesses told Radio Free Asia.

China’s state-owned CCTV reported on Jan. 5 that more than 40,000 suspects from scamming gangs in Myanmar were handed over to Chinese authorities in 2023.

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw for RFA Burmese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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