CHINA: Recently, the Chinese film ‘No More Bets‘ once again raised awareness among the Chinese populace regarding human trafficking stemming from cyber scam schemes in Southeast Asia.
Countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar have had their reputations tarnished due to human trafficking and online scam crimes.
Numerous media reports, along with harrowing accounts from victims, shed light on the plight of those ensnared by job scams.
Victims hailing from Malaysia, Taiwan, and China find themselves trapped in prison-like conditions in the Myawaddy area near the Thai-Myanmar border.
Indeed, a recent report from the United Nations (UN) has expressed concern about the ASEAN region evolving into a breeding ground for online scammers, victimizing hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide through human trafficking schemes crafted specifically for online fraud.
According to the UN report, an estimated 120,000 people in Myanmar and 100,000 in Cambodia have been coerced into becoming part of online scam operations.
The report also alerted that individuals are lured in by social media ads promising easy jobs and luxurious amenities, only to be deceived into travelling to countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand.
The report specifically pointed out Thailand’s growing role as a transit country for these illicit operations.
Traffickers transport people into Thailand before moving them across the border to neighbouring states.
Scam syndicates relocate operations to Eastern Myanmar
According to Chinese media reports, as a response to the crackdown at the border between Chinese authorities and Myanmar, over 50,000 syndicates have shifted their operations to the eastern region.
These syndicates have established a sprawling “scam park” spanning more than 10,000 square meters, housing dozens of companies and employing over a thousand individuals.
The victims of Myawaddy’s crime syndicate are diverse, ranging from recent university graduates and ordinary salaried workers to unexpected targets like a multimillionaire in China, who could never have imagined falling into the clutches of a scam centre in Myawaddy.
For instance, 46-year-old Xin Weilin (幸卫林), the CEO of a Guiyang-based tourism company boasting 142 global stores, tragically found himself ensnared by scammers.
Business trip to Thailand turns nightmarish in Myawaddy scam park
In September 2022, during a business trip to Kunming, China, Mr Xin encountered a seemingly enthusiastic fellow traveller who persistently urged him to explore a tourism project in Thailand.
Enticed by the potential business opportunities in Thailand, especially with the forthcoming lifting of COVID-19 border restrictions, Mr Xin reluctantly agreed to visit.
However, his journey took a horrifying turn as he disembarked the plane.
Unbeknownst to him, he was drugged and abducted, all concealed within a seemingly innocent bottle of mineral water. He was then sold for 300,000 RMB (approximately US$ 41,039) to a small scam company operating within the Myawaddy scam centre.
Mr Xin shared that those within the scam park could be roughly categorized into three groups: around 10% were individuals like himself, brought there against their will; another 10% were scam bosses with legitimate passports, able to move freely in and out.
The remaining 80% fell victim to deceptive job advertisements on social media, enticed by the promise of unrealistically high salaries, or were lured by family and friends, willingly heading to Cambodia.
“It can be said that Myawaddy is a more terrifying place than northern Myanmar,” Mr Xin remarked.
The syndicate boss informed Mr Xin that there was no precedent for anyone ever leaving their facility nor for anyone being released upon payment of ransom.
“There are multiple internal loops of resale. If there are no takers in the end, the victims lose their value.”
“When they lose their value, the final outcome is being sent to the high seas,” where the victims’ organs could potentially be harvested.
“So you must work well; those who don’t work well won’t survive,” Mr. Xin disclosed to local Chinese media.
Despite his initial refusal to work for the scam syndicate, Mr Xin was subjected to severe beatings with sticks and hammers by enforcers, ultimately forcing his compliance.
“The company’s primary operation revolves around a traditional pig-butchering scheme. Employing a range of tactics, they masquerade as charming and persuasive individuals to ensnare their victims. ”
“However, their methods are ruthlessly efficient, as they can manipulate someone into falling in love within just a few days.”
Mr Xin revealed that during his captivity at the company, their most significant scam successfully fleeced a businesswoman of a staggering 2.8 million RMB (approximately US$383,010).
Xin Weilin detailed the grim conditions within the compound dedicated to telecom fraud. It was fortified with towering walls, razor wire, and armed security personnel.
Inside, he suffered relentless physical abuse. These deplorable circumstances in a foreign land only served to intensify his determination to escape.
Mr Xin recounted that on November 13, around 5 a.m., he seized an opportunity under the cover of pre-dawn darkness to leap from the approximately 5-meter-high compound wall, resulting in multiple fractures.
Chinese people regarded as “walking money” in Myanmar
Following his escape from the compound, Mr Xin found himself under the control of various groups.
Initially rescued by a father and son duo, his relief was short-lived as they handed him over to local police. To his dismay, he claimed that corrupt officers sold him multiple times, eventually leading to his transfer to a Burmese general.
During an encounter with a translator, Mr Xin clarified his situation, stating, “I’m not seeking employment. I cannot engage in this scam work. I’ve just escaped from the compound.”
The translator bluntly informed him that they were demanding 300,000 RMB for his release. In response, Mr Xin questioned, “Do you genuinely believe I’m worth 300,000 RMB in my current condition?”
He explained that within the local context, individuals like him, deceived into participating in fraudulent activities, were perceived as “walking money.” However, due to his injuries, he couldn’t fetch a high price.
Mr Xin engaged in negotiations with local groups and managed to contact his family. Ultimately, his family paid 80,000 RMB to secure his release.
Throughout these negotiations, Mr Xin expended nearly 200,000 RMB.
On November 27, he successfully crossed the river into Thailand but was subsequently detained in the Mekong Immigration Detention Center and later transferred to the Bangkok Immigration Detention Center.
Xin Weilin recounted his 105 days of harrowing experiences abroad, including his time in the immigration detention centers. Mr. Xin and his family and friends tirelessly contacted the Chinese Embassy in Thailand for assistance.
With the assistance of multiple parties, on January 5, 2023, Xin Weilin arrived in Kunming, Yunnan, and reunited with his family in Guiyang on January 7.
“Don’t talk to Chinese people”
Mr Xin’s story has received extensive coverage in Chinese media, and he has consistently used the media as a platform to warn his fellow countrymen about the dangers of falling victim to online job scams and to advocate for caution when encountering dubious offers on the internet.
Reflecting on his harrowing ordeal in Myanmar, he offered a word of caution: “Avoid interactions with Chinese nationals when you’re abroad, and exercise caution when dealing with Chinese strangers.”
He observed that all the kingpins in the “scam park” were Chinese, with rarely any foreigners involved in these fraudulent activities.
“As for the Burmese, they simply lease out their land, often without concern for the activities of these criminal syndicates on their soil.”
“With just four to five years in the scam business, these syndicates can amass billions, providing them with little incentive to release their victims.”
“This is how Chinese people would think: ‘They want to exploit your value to the fullest extent.'”
Sylvia Lim refutes PAP MP’s claims over her speech on supporting young senior
Asia Centre hosts regional meeting on digital rights
Airbus issues apology after Chinese & Russian visitors allegedly denied entry from military plane at Singapore Airshow
Hamas extends condolences for tragic self-immolation of US Airman Aaron Bushnell
Dennis Tan: Advocating senior support, disabilities, and green transition in Budget 2024
South Africa faces escalating rhino poaching despite conservation efforts
Halimah Yacob speaks out on Gaza crisis: ‘Degradation of the human soul’
Love Aid Singapore donates US$20,000 to support Gaza orphans
WP MPs challenge Murali Pillai on government transparency regarding reserves
ICA to maintain dedicated lanes for Singaporeans and permanent residents
South Korea gives protesting doctors 29 Feb return deadline
Maid probed over alleged fatal abuse of employer’s dog; SPCA deems actions “brutal” and “appalling”
Politics5 days ago
Leong Mun Wai steps down as PSP Secretary-General over POFMA directive received
Singapore4 days ago
Gilbert Goh challenges MOE on Israel-Hamas classroom narrative
Featured2 weeks ago
PA surveys community & govt confidence amid pending general election
Comments2 weeks ago
PAP Marcus Loh accuses WP’s MP of alleged dishonesty on debate about reserves
Civil Society2 weeks ago
Singaporeans stand firm in support for Palestine amidst police scrutiny
Singapore1 week ago
Kenneth Jeyaretnam issued 6th POFMA direction over Ridout Road saga
Civil Society2 weeks ago
At least 9 individuals summoned by police over Palestine solidarity activities on 2 Feb
Politics1 week ago
Lim Tean mocks DPM Wong’s 2024 Budget as “band-aid”, hints election coming