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Thailand Helps 900 Scam Victims Return From Myanmar to China

Thai police helped transfer 900 Chinese nationals who were stuck in a notorious criminal enclave in eastern Myanmar get flights back to their homeland over the past few days

Thai PM Srettha Thavisin said the return of the 900 Chinese was a voluntary act, not a forced return. This file pic shows Srettha at the ASEAN-Japan summit in Tokyo in December 2023 (Reuters).


Thailand has over the past three days helped repatriate hundreds of Chinese nationals who had been trapped in notorious scam centres in Myawaddy, a small town just across the Thai-Myanmar border.

The 900 Chinese were sent home on more than a dozen flights from the Thai town of Mae Sot from Thursday to Saturday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin revealed on Sunday.


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Myanmar and other parts of Southeast Asia has become a hub for telecom and other online fraud, according to the United Nations, with hundreds of thousands of people trafficked by criminal gangs and forced to work in scam centres and other illegal activities.

The operation – overseen by Thai police and completed on Saturday – involved transporting the Chinese from Myawaddy in Kayin (Karen) state to an airport in the Thai border district of Mae Sot, where they were transferred to Chinese planes.

“This was a joint voluntary operation between three countries, China, Myanmar and Thailand,” Prime Minister Srettha said.

“The process was done voluntarily, based on humanitarian principles, it was not forced,” Srettha said, adding that Thailand had facilitated the transfer to the flights at Mae Sot.

Most of the returnees are believed to have been held against their will and forced to work in cyber scam operations.

Criminal enclaves flourish since Myanmar coup

Thai deputy police chief Surachate Hakparn said the operation involved 15 flights over three days to return Chinese scam victims to China.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Myanmar’s military spokesperson also did not respond to a call seeking comment.

The latest return is one of many from scam centres that have flourished in notorious criminal enclaves in Myanmar’s far north and east since the country’s civil strife collapsed into war over the past three years since the Suu Kyi government was ousted in a military coup.

Last November Myanmar authorities handed over 31,000 telecom fraud suspects to China in a joint crackdown against online scams in Shan State in Myanmar’s far north.

China and Myanmar also helped facilitate the transfer back to Thailand of more than two hundred Thais, both victims and those involved with telecom fraud gangs, who were trapped in fighting between Myanmar military and armed ethnic-minority groups in Laukkaing in Shan State.


  • Reuters with additional input and editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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