MYANMAR: Myanmar’s military junta has strongly criticized its close ally, China, for a blockbuster film that portrays human trafficking and fraudulent schemes, stating that it has “tarnished” the country’s reputation, as reported by its state media on Friday.
This comes in the wake of an earlier announcement by the Cambodian government, which imposed a ban on the Chinese blockbuster film titled “No More Bets” due to concerns about its unfavourable portrayal of the country.
The film, released in early August, claims to be inspired by true events and tells the story of a computer programmer who is trafficked to an undisclosed Southeast Asian nation, where they become entangled with a violent fraudulent organization.
According to Myanmar’s state media outlet, the Global New Light of Myanmar, U Kyaw Soe Thein, the Consul-General of Myanmar in Nanning, China, briefed Ms Lian Yin, Director of the Foreign Office of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, about the negative impact of the film on Myanmar’s image.
U Kyaw Soe Thein highlighted Myanmar government’s cooperation with neighboring countries in the fight against online crimes. He explained that the movie ‘No More Bets’ revolves around characters affected by online scams, with storylines related to Myanmar.
In the discussions, Ms Lian Yin expressed her appreciation for discussing the development situation in Myanmar.
Regarding the movie, she emphasized that the public should rely on official statements and government news regarding the fight against crime, and she continued by stating that the successful cooperation between the two countries’ governments reflects their attitudes.
“No More Bets” has grossed US$547 million in just 31 days since its release, according to Ent Group, making it the second highest-grossing Chinese film of the year and the biggest hit of the Chinese summer season.
Although the film does not explicitly mention any country, both Cambodia and Myanmar have expressed their displeasure with its content.
Southeast Asia travel plans decline among Chinese tourists due to safety worries
In recent years, Myanmar and Cambodia have grappled with headlines of online fraud-related human trafficking schemes.
In 2019, 35% of Cambodia’s foreign visitors were Chinese, making China its largest tourism market.
Likewise, China was a significant source of tourists for Myanmar even during the pandemic and ongoing civil conflict.
Tourism insiders have reported that the cyber scams in Myanmar have severely damaged the country’s reputation, eroding tourist confidence.
Despite China lifting a ban on group tours on August 10, the number of inquiries and planned visits has dwindled.
According to a report by The Japan Times, a recent survey conducted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo disclosed that out of 54,000 participants, 48,000 indicated their intention to refrain from visiting Myanmar, with an additional 3,000 expressing hesitancy, primarily due to safety concerns.
In a different survey targeting Chinese online users about their willingness to journey to Southeast Asia, more than 85% of respondents indicated that they would not contemplate travelling to the region for the same reason.
UN Policy Report highlights transnational crime gangs establishing remote bases in Myanmar
Last week, in a recently published policy report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) strongly criticized the responses to the issue of trafficking in persons for forced criminality in Southeast Asia, characterizing them as disorganized and reactionary, lacking a systematic and well-coordinated approach.
The UN’s policy report has shed light on the alarming presence of organized crime gangs operating in the border areas of Myanmar, adjacent to China.
These remote locations, often inaccessible to law enforcement, serve as operational hubs for criminal syndicates perpetrating online scams, leaving trafficking victims with scant chances of escape.
Powerful Chinese and Taiwanese criminal organizations, operating primarily in the Mekong region and the Philippines, have orchestrated a “scamdemic” resulting in billions of dollars being siphoned off through tactics that include romance scams, extortion, and investment pyramid schemes.
While certain crackdowns have been executed in Cambodia and the Philippines, these criminal groups are evolving and perfecting their fraudulent activities from fortified compounds located within the protective umbrella of ethnic rebel groups in the conflict-ridden terrain of Myanmar.
In Myanmar, a significant hub for criminal activities has flourished in the Myawaddy region, situated just across a small river from the western Thai border town of Mae Sot.
Another network of compounds stretches along Myanmar’s eastern border with China, extending northward through Shan State, passing through the special administrative area of Wa State, and reaching Kokang, which shares a border with China’s Yunnan province.
Southeast Asian nations, in collaboration with the UNODC, have launched a strategy plan aimed at tackling organized crime and human trafficking in the region.
The new plan aims to strengthen preventative measures and enhance the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to combat international organized crime and human trafficking on a regional scale.
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