The criminal activities of Chinese triad gangs in Myanmar’s Shwe Kokko are destabilizing the region, reported The Irrawaddy.
Myanmar’s home-grown criminals are sitting in Naypyidaw. Meanwhile, transnational Chinese gangs are free to operate on the Myanmar-Thailand border, posing a serious security threat to the region. Shwe Kokko, Karen State opposite Thailand’s Mae Sot is notorious as a criminal hub for online gambling, scamming and trafficking, reported The Irrawaddy.
The city is also known as Myanmar’s Silicon Valley, but since the coup, its high-tech expertise and infrastructure have been geared toward transnational criminal activity. Among the victims are foreigners lured to the city by offers of high-paying jobs in Thailand.
Myanmar’s military coup in 2021 has triggered a widespread humanitarian crisis but also a breakdown in the rule of law. And the security situation is getting worse by the week. With the rise of lawlessness, the coup has provided freedom for cyber-criminals, human traffickers and gunrunners to operate along the border with Thailand.
Chinese triad gangs and criminals are exploiting the turmoil following the military takeover to expand their criminal activities, reported The Irrawaddy.
Last year, Filipinos, Malaysians, Indonesians, Indians, Thais, Taiwanese, Bangladeshis, Brazilians, Kenyans, Colombians and Hong Kongers travelled to Thailand on the promise of jobs, only to find themselves trafficked across the border to Shwe Kokko.
The victims in Shwe Kokko are imprisoned and coerced to work for crime syndicates as online scammers. Those who refuse face physical punishment or even worse forms of abuse. Families of the victims have been asked to pay ransoms in exchange for the release of loved ones, reported The Irrawaddy.
The city is making headlines in regional newspapers as a hive of scams, abduction, and human trafficking, with governments increasingly under pressure to respond to emergency appeals from families and victims.
Shwe Kokko is under the control of the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF) led by Colonel Saw Chit Thu, a Karen insurgent leader. Several years ago, he signed a ceasefire with Myanmar’s army that saw his breakaway Democratic Karen Buddhist Army rebadged as the Karen BGF under the partial command of the military, reported The Irrawaddy.
Few could have imagined this war-torn stretch of the border would come under the control of a Karen breakaway group, which brokered peace and business deals with Myanmar’s military and invited massive investment from the Chinese underworld.
Chinese nationals continued to flow into Mae Sot. Among them was She Zhijiang, who is a fugitive in China but holds a Cambodian passport after investing in casinos there. She, also known as Dylan She, is chairman of Yatai International Holding Group, reported The Irrawaddy.
Moreover, the Myanmar military issues licenses for its allies and cronies to run hotels, clubs and casinos in towns on the border with Thailand and China.
Several transnational Chinese criminal gangs operate hotels and casinos in the northern Shan State borderlands, also known as the Golden Triangle. Their local partners include the border guard forces and other militia and insurgent groups. The irony is they emerged after the coup “strengthened and with new opportunities to generate illicit income”, according to the United States Institute of Peace USIP.
How much tax revenue flows into the regime’s coffers from Shwe Kokko is not known. However, revenue received from criminals in the border city boosts the junta’s ability to purchase arms to suppress its own people, reported The Irrawaddy.
It is time for governments of countries that share borders with Myanmar, including China, India and Thailand, to look into this matter more closely since criminal activities in Shwe Kokko and other casino hubs are directly linked to the junta in Naypyidaw. Criminals in Myanmar should not go unchecked – they pose a serious threat to countries across the region, reported The Irrawaddy.