Transborder News

The Crime Corridor  

Paskorn Jumlongrach 

On 4 February, 2024, a small piece of news indicated that the Myanmar police were preparing to send to the Thai police over 90 Thai nationals and more than one thousand Chinese nationals and foreigners lured to work in Shwe Kokko, Myawaddy, Myanmar, opposite to Tak’s Mae Sot District. The repatriation was, however, delayed, due to unknown reasons. Such development does look intriguing.  

Although the number of people to be sent back from Myawaddy appears minimal when compared to thousands of Thai nationals who have been lured to work in Kokang’s Laukkaing Township in Northern Shan State bordering China, but the fact that Myanmar intended to hand over these Thai and foreign nationals signifies something interesting and deserves the attention. Issues concerning the Chinese mafia and how Thai people have been deceived to work for these scam call centers are so intricated with the current armed conflicts in Myanmar whereas the Myanmar junta is in quite a miserable situation.  

One of the reasons that prompted the Operation 1027 to fight off the Myanmar army on 27 October 2023 was because the Myanmar junta had failed to act as requested by China to crack down on the Chinese mafias involved in such underworld businesses in the Kokang, a self-administered zone bordering China, and to hand over its leaderships.  

China offers support to the northern alliances of Myanmar which calls themselves “The Brotherhood Alliance” composed of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA). Together, they launched attacks on the Myanmar forces and expanded their operation until they could lay seize to large swathe of land in Northern Shan State.  

Meanwhile, the Kokang forces managed to defeat the forces that allied with the Myanmar junta and successfully laid siege to Laukkaing Township, the capital city of the Kokang self-administered zone. 

The Operation 1027 was a turning point that immensely boosts the moral and spirit of the ethnic armed groups and resistance forces against the Myanmar army nationwide. It has inspired similar attacks that have spread all over leading to more control of the territories belonging to Myanmar along the border.  

The photos that show military generals of the Myanmar army while they surrendered themselves to the ethnic armed groups has inflict a deep trauma among the Tatmadaw troops.  

While China has successfully purged the mafia groups that have caused trouble to many Chinese, it at the same time can benefit from flexing its muscles over the territories inside Myanmar.  All the ethnic armed groups along the border have been swept under its wing. Meanwhile, the Myanmar junta is left in an awkward situation since it still needs to rely on weapons and support from China.  

The handing over of Thai and foreign nationals from Myawaddy to the Thai police bears more meaning than the crackdown of the Chinese mafia or the rescue of victims of the scam.  

 n the wake of China’s crackdown on mafia groups from the Philippines to Laos (Kings Romans Casino, Golden Triangle) to Cambodia to Kokang, many such mafia groups have relocated to various new cities in Myawaddy opposite to Mae Sot.  

Similarly, the past week in Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai, it is reported that Chinese nationals desperately tried to cross the border from Myanmar’s Tachileik to Thailand since they have come under quite a tormenting purge. At the moment, members of the trafficking syndicates and the Chinese victims are desperately scrambling for their life.  

The area by the Moei River of Myawaddy has become a hub for the Chinese mafia, not just inside Shwe Kokko or KK Park. The casinos spread all over the area, more than 30 of them.  

The area has become a stronghold of the Chinese scam businesses due to various factors. In particular, the territory is left without state control and falls under the influence of at least six or seven ethnic armed groups including the anti-Myanmar forces and the Myanmar forces, each of which has built up its own kingdom to serve their interest.  

In the past three years since the Myanmar army’s coup, this area has become a hot zone for the Chinese business people again. This happens after the NLD-led coalition has suspended all the investments and projects to turn it into a new city and an entertainment and trading hub for people on the outside, but in fact, it serves as a large crime corridor involving gambling, online scam, human trafficking, etc.  

Lots of money has been poured into the ethnic armed groups as the land owner in exchange for their protection. Such fortune has been passed on to the Myanmar junta as well. Most importantly, the large sum of money has also been injected as bribery into the bureaucratic and political system in Thailand.  

Mae Sot is the gate to the kingdom of vast interest. Therefore, every square inch of land at the gateway has been used as leverage by the corrupt officials.  

Since every human being and commodity has to be shipped through the Thai territory, it is unsurprising to learn that the office of Chief Officer of an agency in Thailand’s Mae Sot could cost quite a huge sum of money, not less than some hot districts in Bangkok.  

The borderland of Mae Sot -Myawaddy, divided by a small stream of Moei River, has thus become a land to nurture a global crime corridor. Owing to the perpetual leniency of the Thai government and its bureaucratic system toward corruption, it gives a breeding group for the mafia rings to thrive so stably in the new cities. Both politicians in the Parliament and former high-ranking police officials serve as a conduit to such Chinese mafia.

Systematic money laundering that penetrates to Thailand’s capital city. 

Last year, the Chinese security agencies and police have sought cooperation from their Thai counterparts in order to arrest the Chinese mafias in this crime corridor as many Chinese have been lured to invest and to work here, the incidence of which is called “Chinese scamming Chinese”. The new city has been falsely portrayed as a hub of business and trade.  

The Chinese authorities have tracked down the Chinese mafia members based in Mae Sot and have sent to the Thai authorities a list of their names. Similarly, they have sent such blacklists to the authorities in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, and several of them have helped to effectively purged such groups, but not in Thailand since nowadays, the Chinese mafias continue to use fake passports to enter and exit the border at their pleasure.  

That the Myanmar junta offers to hand to the Thai authorities more than 90 Thai nationals and more than a thousand foreigners is quite intriguing. Who are these people? This area is situated inside a crime corridor beyond the control of the Myanmar authorities and the local armed groups are armed to the teeth and ready to fight each other.  

This Myanmar’s tactic is not dissimilar to floating a trial balloon. On one hand, it is able to gather intelligence of the movement of various armed groups, on the other, it can play nice to China which wants to expand its influence to the area along the Thai border considering its vested interest in Myanmar.

It is even more intriguing since Thailand is preparing to develop a pilot humanitarian corridor to facilitate the sending of aid between the Thai and Myanmar Red Cross Societies to more than 20,000 Karen IDPs in three spots inside Myanmar. The shipment will be arranged through Mae Sot District and five kilometers inside Myawaddy, the area of which falls under the control of the ethnic armed groups. Meanwhile, the Thai Deputy Prime Miniter and Minister of Foreign Affairs is bound to visit the area during 8-9 February.

Various groups are keeping an eye the development initiated by Thailand since until now, the government-to-government sending of aid in this area has been made almost impossible since the area falls under the control of various ethnic armed groups which have already purged the Myanmar forces/SAC from the area.  

Therefore, what are the purposes of such humanitarian corridor? Are there any hidden agendas or not? This issue is worth attention.  


This is a translation of original Thai article https://transbordernews.in.th/home/?p=37161




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