Some Chinese lured by 'high-paying jobs' end up in telecom fraud, prostitution in Myanmar
Published: Mar 05, 2021 12:38 AM Updated: Mar 05, 2021 02:58 PM
Photo: IC

Photo: IC

China’s public security organs have received a number of criminal cases involving Chinese citizens that were abducted from China into northern Myanmar and illegally detained, extorted or forced into crimes such as telecom fraud and prostitution, police in multiple Chinese cities warned recently, asking residents to be alert to deceptive recruitment information in Myanmar.

The police reminded people to turn to formal and legal employment agencies when looking for jobs, and encouraged reports of deceptive information.

Such cases have been reported in many Chinese cities in recent years. “The scammers usually post job advertisements via domestic social media platforms to seek targets in China, claiming that there would be high-paying job opportunities overseas,” an insider in Myanmar told the Global Times on Thursday.

When the “workers,” who believe they are going to make large sums of money soon, arrive in Myanmar, their passports will be taken away and they are forced by the smugglers to work as mercenaries, swindlers, prostitutes and even drug dealers. “If they don't do it, they would be thrown into a water dungeon and beaten,” the insider said, adding that most victims were smuggled across the border.

Bordering China, northern Myanmar has Chinese as one of the most spoken languages in the area. Some Chinese girls have been lied to by the smugglers and trapped by their friends in the area and engaged in prostitution, Li, a Chinese working in Myanmar for six years, told the Global Times.

With China taking firm action to crack down on telecom fraud in recent years, many in this business have moved to northern Myanmar. Incomplete statistics show that more than 100,000 Chinese people in the area are currently engaged in telecom fraud, Phoenix Weekly reported, citing a source familiar with police investigations. 

Police in Jingshan of Central China’s Hubei Province busted a gang of seven who illegally organized and transported eight men, in the name of labor export, to Myanmar to engage in telecom fraud in 2020, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported Monday.

In June, the gang sneaked the victims all the way into Myanmar via Menglian county in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, reports said. 

The victims, who were in their 20s, were forced to hand in their personal goods including mobile phone cards and ID cards. When they arrived, they were asked to join telecom fraud and induce others to join online gambling scams.

They would suffer mental or physical abuse if they didn't work well and were forced to ask their families for money in exchange for their safety, said one of the victims, Chen Tian (pseudonym).

Sharing a borderline of 1,941 kilometers with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, Yunnan has become one of the major channels that offenders use for human trafficking and other cross-border crimes. Although the border between China and Myanmar has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, illegal border crossings have been non-stop, an official in charge of foreign affairs in Lincang, a border region in Yunnan, who asked for anonymity, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“The border defense has used everything – even defense dogs, but you cannot deploy a guard every three or five meters along the border all day long,” he said.

According to the official, during the past months, at Lincang’s Cangyuan Airport, thousands of people who were suspected of planning to cross the border from Lincang were persuaded to return home.

The majority of those who illegally traveled from China to northern Myanmar plan to commit telemarketing fraud and other crimes, and many have criminal records back in China, the official noted.

Police in Yunnan have been conducting a campaign to crack down on cross-border crimes for more than a year. In 2020, the procuratorate department in Yunnan seized 13,380 people who committed cross-border crimes, suing 13,022 of them. Among them, 5,665 were detained for illegally crossing the border, 2.6 times that in the year before, local news website reported.

China and Myanmar have been in close cooperation when cracking down on cross-border crimes such as drug manufacturing and trafficking, online gambling and telecom fraud in recent years. In 2019, Chinese and Myanmar police jointly caught a large cross-border telecom fraud group, seizing 69 suspects.
The two countries also established an annual meeting mechanism on drug control in 2001. At the 17th China-Myanmar anti-drug cooperation conference on January 12 this year, drug control authorities from both sides said that the two countries have become each other's most important partners in drug control and agreed to exchange information on chemical smuggling gangs and clues on chemical losses to prevent chemicals from being used to manufacture drugs.