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Malaysian man narrowly escapes human trafficking scheme in Myanmar after falling for US$3,600 ‘ivory smuggling’ offer

A Malaysian Chinese man, enticed by quick riches, accepted a substantial RM17,000 (approximately US$3,594) offer to smuggle ivory at the Thai-Myanmar border.

Unknowingly, he was perilously close to falling into a human trafficking scheme, narrowly escaping by leaping from a moving vehicle.

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SARAWAK, MALAYSIA: A 27-year-old Malaysian Chinese, in pursuit of making quick money, was lured by a lucrative offer of US$3,600 to smuggle ivory at the Thai-Myanmar border.

Little did he know that he was on the brink of falling into a human trafficking scheme that would have trapped him in a nightmarish and inhumane scam compound in Myanmar.

The young man, who goes by the alias “Ah Liang,” managed to escape by taking a daring leap from a moving vehicle when he sensed that something was amiss. Despite sustaining injuries, he found refuge in the jungle to evade his pursuers.

Ah Liang’s harrowing ordeal spanned two days and two nights as he navigated treacherous terrain, ultimately crossing the Myanmar-Thailand border.

He eventually surrendered to local immigration authorities, putting an end to his nightmarish journey.

Had Ah Liang not managed to escape, he might have ended up imprisoned in the scam compound.

Victims in such places are often subjected to forced labour, coerced into engaging in illicit scams and subjected to torture for non-cooperation or failure to meet targets.

The victim recounts his terrifying tale of survival

Now back in his hometown of Miri, Ah Liang recently shared his harrowing experience with the local Chinese media.

At the time, Ah Liang was unemployed and vulnerable when he came across a high-paying job offer on Facebook in August.

The offer held the tantalizing promise of him earning a substantial RM17,000 (approximately US$3,594) in just three days by smuggling ivory across the Myanmar-Thailand border.

He accepted this secret offer, choosing not to disclose it to his family.

On September 2nd, Ah Liang took a flight to Thailand and then flew to Chiang Rai. An e-hailing driver was waiting for him outside the airport, who took him to Mae Sai, which is near the Thai-Myanmar border, and gave him 2,000 Thai Baht, claiming it was from the employer.

On the morning of September 3rd, around 6 AM, a Thai “snakehead” (an individual aiding in illegal border crossings) pressed Ah Liang to hastily pack his belongings and head towards the border.

Once at the border, despite his initial hesitation, Ah Liang was eventually coerced into boarding a boat that transported him to Tachileik, a city in Myanmar located just across the river from Mae Sai in Thailand.

Subsequently, following two vehicle changes, Ah Liang was taken away from Tachileik.

Daring escape

Ah Liang recalled that the final escorts were two men in military attire. When the cargo vehicle slowed down while going uphill, Ah Liang seized the opportunity, unlocked the vehicle’s door quietly, and jumped out.

He didn’t even notice the pain from the injuries sustained during the jump; he just started running.

During his escape, Ah Liang was briefly captured by soldiers after falling into a ditch, but he summoned the courage to resist, causing the unarmed soldiers to retreat.

He managed to escape once more, seeking refuge in the dense jungle for three hours.

His journey back to Tachileik was fraught with peril as Ah Liang continuously assessed the terrain and dared not stop, even when passing a Myanmar police station.

His singular goal was to reach the Myanmar-Thailand border as quickly as possible and seek assistance in Thailand.

Along the way, when thirst struck, he sought refuge in a local house to request water. After two days and two nights of relentless walking, Ah Liang finally arrived in Tachileik, Myanmar.

Witnessing a human trafficking nightmare amidst the perilous journey

During this perilous journey, Ah Liang bore witness to a chilling sight: at least five trucks transporting scores of young individuals, each wearing a fearful expression. The convoy was escorted by armed individuals in military attire, brandishing M16 rifles.

In Tachileik, Ah Liang found a lifeline in the form of a compassionate restaurant owner, a Chinese expatriate in Myanmar, known as Ms Gu.

She offered him respite, nourishment, and even local currency. The restaurant owner arranged for a driver to transport Ah Liang to the border checkpoint between Myanmar and Thailand.

“I was truly exhausted after walking for two days and two nights. I remember spending the night outside the restaurant. Ms Gu was cautious. She asked me in Chinese if I was a wanted criminal, and I was afraid she might be linked to the scammers. ”

“However, when she saw my injuries, she immediately tended to my wounds. After learning of my ordeal, she provided food and shelter, and she arranged for an employee to find a driver to take me to the border checkpoint between Myanmar and Thailand.”

“Ms Gu even gave me some pocket money. She is my saviour and a kind-hearted person. If I recover, I plan to personally thank her in Tachileik.”

Despite his resourcefulness, Ah Liang faced expulsion by Myanmar immigration officials due to his illegal entry.

However, Ah Liang’s quick thinking proved crucial when he realized that the Myanmar-Thailand border checkpoint was devoid of immigration officers when it opened at 6 AM.

He skillfully blended into the crowd and made his way to the Thai immigration checkpoint, where he surrendered.

Battling injuries and infections

During his escape, Ah Liang suffered extensive abrasions on his left hand and foot. Additionally, due to a lack of immediate medical care, serious bacterial infections developed.

At one point, a Thai hospital considered amputation as a life-saving measure. Fortunately, with meticulous care, Ah Liang was discharged from the Thai hospital after 19 days and was subsequently repatriated to Malaysia for further medical attention.

Ah Liang’s determination and resourcefulness during his escape earned admiration from Thai officials.

Local immigration officers provided attentive care during his detention. However, Ah Liang was subsequently brought to court on September 7th, found guilty of illegal entry, and fined.

During his time in detention, his untreated wounds became infected, resulting in severe bleeding on September 10th, necessitating urgent medical intervention.

He acknowledged his survival owed much to the compassion of others, particularly Datuk Sebastian Ting, Sarawak Deputy Minister for Tourism, Creative Industry, and Performing Arts, who facilitated his return to Malaysia.

Ah Liang’s family in Miri had lost contact with him until they received a call. With the assistance of Datuk Sebastian Ting, they engaged the Malaysian Embassy in Thailand and entered Thailand on September 25th to reunite with Ah Liang.

He was finally returned to Miri on September 29th, marking the end of his extraordinary journey to freedom.

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